Why Burundi refugees could finally go home

Monday July 13 2020

Burundian refugees walking to Nduta refugee

Burundian refugees walking to Nduta refugee camp in Kigoma, northwest Tanzania, on October 7, 2015. AFP  PHOTO  

By The EastAfrican

Tanzania and Burundi have agreed in principle to repatriate Burundian refugees still living in camps in northwestern Tanzania after the voluntary repatriation of October 2019.

Statistics by Tanzania’s Home Affairs Ministry show there are still 136,221 Burundians at refugee camps in the country and only 10,108 have expressed the desire for repatriation.

The ministry’s spokesperson, Christina Mwangosi, told The EastAfrican that all procedures for repatriation are in place and the ministry will co-ordinate the exercise jointly with officials from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

The call to repatriate Burundian refugees living in Tanzania was made recently by newly elected Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye who pleaded for their unconditional return.

“We have just honoured ourselves by showing the world that we no longer need to ignore lessons of democracy. It is rather our turn to teach others,” he said in reference to the peaceful election and transition despite the sudden death of then outgoing President Pierre Nkurunziza before the handover.

Promise of peace

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President Ndayishimiye appealed to all Burundians who love democracy but living in exile in Tanzania may return home to enjoy his victory and that of the country, and as promised during the electoral campaign, that he would serve all without discrimination.

He called on all Burundians to preserve peace and security.

The last batch of Burundian refugees left the country in October. Burundians make up the majority of the 280,000 refugees registered in Tanzania at the end of 2018, according to the UNHCR.

Edward Ogolla of the UN agency said that up to now, about 85,396 Burundian refugees have returned home since September 2017.

Hundreds of Burundians fled the country or were killed in clashes during the bloody turmoil in 2015 when then-president Pierre Nkurunziza ran for a disputed third term. Street demonstrations led to a crackdown and killings by police, military, and pro-government militia.

Nkurunziza died in May after elections.

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