Tuesday, 11 December 2007

News from Burundi: Refugees Are Going Home, Perhaps

Refugee crises all too often go on and on. Early this month, Burundian and Tanzanian officials as well as UN representatives sat down to talk about the 120,000 refugees from Burundi’s ethnic troubles still living in refugee camps in Tanzania. According to the UN news agency IRIN, more 40,000 were repatriated in 2007, bringing to 430,000 the number returned to their home country since 2001.

That was the year when a difficult and still only partially-completed peace process was begun in this country in the Great Lakes Region of Central Africa. Trouble between Tutsis and the Hutu majority flared in 1993, a year before the genocide which saw about 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus killed in neighboring Rwanda. While the bloodshed was never as violent in Burundi as in Rwanda, the country is only slowly recovering.

The vast majority (79 per cent) of Burundians remaining in refugee camps in Tanzania do not want to return home, according to a study released at the meeting. Tanzania wants to close the five remaining camps by next June: six were cut in 2007.

Another 218,000 Burundians have been in Tanzania since 1972 when they fled during another period of ethnic conflict. They have permanent refugee status and have been considered self sufficient since 1985.

And you thought your life was difficult?

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