Friday February 17 2017

Refugees walk out on Burundi minister

Burundi minister for home affairs Mr

Burundi minister for home affairs Mr Barandagiye (R) reacts as a refugee asked him about his involvement in the 2015 killings in Burundi. Photo by Felix Ainebyoona 

By Albert Tumwine & Felix Ainebyoona


Everybody expected it to be a calm meeting where the Burundi minister for Home Affairs, Mr Pascal Barandagiye, was supposed to interact with Burundian refugees in Nakivale Refugee Settlement Camp in Isingiro District.
It did not happen. The Burundian refugees turned unruly upon the seeing Mr Barandagiye.

About 30 minutes were spent on calming down the refugees whose actions indicated they did not want to listen to the four-man Burundi government delegation.

It took the intervention of Mr Douglas Asiimwe, the principal refugee protection officer in the Office of the Prime Minister, to calm the storm. Mr Barandagiye spoke of how tranquillity had returned to Burundi, calling upon refugees to return home.

“As you know, we had issues in our country but those have been resolved,” the minister said as the refugees gestured to him to sit down.
They had initially been hostile to Ugandan journalists who they thought were from Burundi state media.

One of the refugees who preferred not to be named told Daily Monitor that it would be foolhardy to return to Burundi. “It is very painful for someone, whom you ran away from to be telling you to return,” said the refugee.

“They (delegation) are saying peace has returned but it is exclusive to those in government.”

Most refugees who talked to this newspaper said they are opposition politicians who fled political persecution.

Mr Barandagiye had earlier told the refugees that the Burundi government “is there whether you like it or not.”

“We came to check on you and I inform you that your country is ready to receive you,” said the Burundian minister.

Mr Asiimwe encouraged them to listen to their leaders since they are likely to go back to their country. This was after a section of the refugees walked out on the Burundian minister as he took his seat.

The refugees even refused to sing the Burundi national anthem.