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Burundian refugees are encouraged to return home willingly.

Thousands of Burundian refugees who live in Mahama camp in Kirehe District have been urged to return to their country and take part in its development.Burundian refugees are encouraged to return home willingly.

On their second day in Rwanda, the Burundian official said they have brought a message of hope to the refugees, who fled their country in 2015 amid unrest that followed an attempted coup to oust late President Pierre Nkurunziza.

 

The Mahama camp hosts over 38,000 Burundian nationals.

During a visit to the Mahama camp on Tuesday, December 20, the officials appealed to the refugees to return, saying that the country has been heading in the right direction since 2020, when President Evariste Ndayishimiye took over.

Some of them raised security concerns back home saying they would not hesitate to repatriate if their concerns are addressed.

“A new era has been ushered into our country and this is what we want the refugees to understand,” said Lt Gen Andre Ndayambaje, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Interior, who heads the Burundian delegation.

 

Burundian refugees are encouraged to return home willingly.
Burundian refugees are encouraged to return home willingly.
Lt Gen Andre Ndayambaje addresses Burundian refugees

During the visit the Burundian refugees were able to interact directly with their government – the first of such a meeting since 2015.

“We have encouraged them to return home and take part in the development of our country. Some of them have children who should come to their country of origin and work for their families’ development,” Ndayambaje said.

“They also expressed their concerns, which have shown us that they still have the thoughts they had when they fled. But the country has a different story today. The Rwandan government and UNHCR have promised to provide their support to ensure voluntary repatriation.”

According to the officials, repatriating Burundians are offered food and monetary support to be able to reintegrate in the community.

Those in need of shelter are supported to get iron sheets to build new homes. Children are supported to return to school.

The ones who had jobs before 2015 are supported to regain their jobs in what is called ‘professional reintegration.’ The Burundian officials say that women and young people are supported to get capital to start businesses.

“First, we thank Rwanda for hosting us for the last seven to eight years. Second, we appreciate the visit by Burundian authorities. We have requested them to solve the security issues and when they have been addressed no one will have to remind us to return,” said Jean Bosco Ukwibishatse, the representative of Burundian refugees in Mahama camp.

Boubacar Bamba, the UNHCR deputy representative in Rwanda, said they were ready to support the repatriation.

“It is great to see Burundian authorities come to engage the Burundian population in Mahama. Repatriation is the solution to the issue of refugees. We wish to see the engagements continue especially on the part of the Burundian authorities,” Bamba said.

In 2015, over 80,000 Burundians fled to Rwanda amid the insecurity that followed an attempted coup.

According to the Ministry of Emergency Management (MINEMA), over 30,000 refugees have returned to Burundi since 2020, at the facilitation of the Rwandan government and UN refugee agency. Some 50,000 refugees still live in Rwanda, most of them in the Mahama refugee camp.

Led by Lt Gen Ndayambaje, the Burundian delegation included Nestor Bimenyimana the Director General in charge of Repatriation, Resettlement and Reintegration, and provincial governors Albert Hatungimana of Kirundo, Remy Cishahayo of Kayanza as well as Leonidas Bandenzamaso of Bururi.

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