Burundi refugees not keen on going back home, yet

Saturday June 20 2020

Burundians refugees make the largest refugee

Burundians refugees make the largest refugee population hosted in Rwanda with over 60, 000 people in Eastern-based Mahama camp, and in urban centres. PHOTO | FILE  

JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
By JOHNSON KANAMUGIRE
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Burundian refugees in Rwanda are still hesitant to return home despite the ongoing electoral transition and the death of the outgoing president Pierre Nkurunziza.

Those who spoke to Rwanda Today said what made them leave the country — systems responsible for violence and abuses, such as the Imbonerakure — are still in place.

“We are yet to know if the ongoing electoral transition will come to pass, and if it does we are not sure if the infamous Imbonerakure will be contained," said Emmanuel Nkengurutse, a former Burundian lawmaker now in exile.

Imbonerakure (Kirundi for "those that see far") is the youth wing wing of the ruling party CNDD-FDD.

The youth league, formed in 2010, the ruling party youth league, are accused of extrajudicial and political killings in the country.

“People who did not vote for CNDD-FDD in  the country are now a target. Anyone seen in groups or at bars are arrested and abused by the armed ruling party youth wing accusing them of celebrating the death of Pierre Nkurunziza. I don’t think it is safe yet,” he added.

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Mr Lionel Ninteretse, who fled in 2015 said the tension back home had seen a number of Burundians and their families ponder to flee the country to no avail as border with neighbouring countries are closed partly to curb the spread of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Burundi has remained relatively calm since the announcement of the death of Nkurunziza on June 9.

However, the UN Refugee agency in Rwanda indicated that it was closely monitoring the situation at the borders.

“We haven’t observed people crossing the border, either during the election process or the announcement of the results of this election," said Elise Villechalane, external relations officer at the Rwanda United Nations High Commission for Refugee.

Ms Villechalane added that UNHCR was nonetheless putting in place relevant measures for any eventuality, adding UNHCR had a contingency plan to receive and cater for an additional 20,000 refugees.

Burundian refugees make the largest refugee population hosted in Rwanda with over 60, 000 people in Eastern-based Mahama camp, and in urban centres.

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