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Africa refugee visit, UN calls on rich countries

On Africa visit UN refugee chief calls on rich countries to fund development

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) António Guterres today called for rich countries to invest in the economic development of Africa’s Great Lakes region to prevent countries emerging from conflict from slipping back into chaos.

“Development would ensure that all communities have a better life and are able to give a better life to those who return,” he said in Muyinga, Burundi, on the fourth day of a nine-day tour.

After seeing off refugees returning from Tanzania to Burundi and Congo on Thursday, he met with Burundians struggling to rebuild their lives back in their own country, and Congolese still uprooted in a refugee camp in north-eastern Burundi.

Mr. Guterres came to Tanzania and Burundi to show European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Louis Michel how European Union (EU) money is being used to support refugees. At the same time, he said wealthy nations can do more to bridge the gap between relief and economic development.

At Gasorwe Refugee Camp, home to more than 8,800 mostly-Congolese refugees, he told residents he had enormous sympathy for their situation. A former Portuguese prime minister, he said he had many close friends who became refugees, fleeing persecution in his own country when Portugal was ruled by dictator Antonio Salazar.

“We share your agony,” he said. At the same time, he noted that there were prospects for them to go home voluntarily in the near future.

As the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) approaches elections at the end of July, the international community must work for consolidation of peace and democracy there and do more to develop its economy, he said. “Without a Congo at peace, Africa does not have a future,” he told the refugees, who applauded loudly.

From Burundi, Mr. Guterres goes on to Kenya, Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia, where he will celebrate World Refugee Day on 20 June.

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