Burundian refugees have petitioned their government seeking to leave Rwanda and return home.
More than 330 Burundian refugees on July 26, 2020 petitioned Burundian President Evariste Ndayishimiye seeking a dignified and lawful return to their home country.
The petition from the refugees was copied to the Government of Rwanda (the Ministry of Emergency Management), and the UN agency for refugees (UNHCR). “We wish for bilateral talks between Burundi and Rwanda in the presence of UNHCR so that we gain our rights and dignity and return home,” reads part of the petition.
Following the petition, Rwanda on August 3, 2020 assured the refugees they would support their return to Burundi.
“Rwanda reiterates its commitment to the protection of refugees on its territory, and stands ready to facilitate the safe and dignified return of those who choose to repatriate, in collaboration with UNHCR [a UN agency mandated to protect refugees] and relevant governments,” a government statement reads in-part.
About 60,000 Burundian refugees have been living in Mahama camp, in eastern Rwanda, since the 2015 political crisis over the late former President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid for a third term. Mahama Refugee Camp located in Kirehe District in the Eastern Province has become the country’s largest camp – hosting Burundian refugees since the emergency.
At least 300 Mahama residents signed the letter to their president accusing some exiled Burundian politicians of “wanting them to stay in the camp for their own interests”. In his inaugural speech in June, President Evariste Ndayishimiye pleaded for refugees to return and since then nearly 2,000 have come back from Tanzania, UN figures show.
But there is not yet an agreement between Rwanda, Burundi and the UNHCR to allow the refugees in Rwanda to come back.
Emmanuel Bizimana, and Celeus Hatungimana, two of the co-signatories to the petition, told The New Times that they fled because of the political crisis and insecurity stemming mainly from former Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza’s bid to serve a controversial third term.
But, they contended that peace has been restored in their country based on the fact that the third term threat was over, and an elected President is currently leading the country. Nkurunziza, who died on June 8 this year (2020), was replaced by Evariste Ndayishimiye.
Data from UNHCR show that Rwanda is hosting around 77,000 refugees from DRC, and 71,000 refugees from Burundi among others, in camps and urban settings.
According to UNHCR, as a result of election-related tensions in neighbouring Burundi, Rwanda opened its border to Burundian refugees who have fled the country since April 2015.
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