New Flow Of Refugees Returning From DR Congo
Burundi: UN Reports New Flow Of Refugees Returning From DR Congo
New York, Oct 23 2006 12:00PM
Growing numbers from among the thousands of Burundians who fled years of ethnic conflict in the small Central African country are returning home from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) following last month’s signing of a peace agreement with the last active rebel group, the United Nations refugee agency reported today.
Although convoys organized by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) are now temporarily suspended in the run-up to the DRC elections on October 29, some 780 of the estimated 19,000 Burundians there have already returned and many more are waiting to go.
The new flow follows the signing on 7 September of a peace accord between the Burundian government and Forces Nationales de Libération (FNL) rebels, who had been active in the provinces neighbouring the DRC, home to most of the returnees.
“Since we heard on the radio that [FNL leader Agathon] Rwasa has signed an agreement with the authorities, we decided it would be safe to come home,” said Jean Bosco Baranyizigiye, accompanied by his wife and their two daughters. “Not long ago, insecurity was still high in our provinces,” he added after arriving in Mutimbuzi near the Burundian capital, Bujumbura, from Uvira in the DRC's South Kivu province.
The majority of returnees are arriving empty-handed, unlike those returning from Tanzanian camps with belongings and even livestock. They did not live in assisted camps in the DRC, but in villages and the countryside, where they survived from hand to mouth.
When they arrive, they are taken to a reception centre where they are registered by the authorities and given a basic UNHCR assistance package, including blankets, mats, pots and plastic sheeting. The UN World Food Programme (WFP) provides food rations for three months. The returnees are then transported to their place of origin where, in most cases, they will have to find a temporary shelter while building a home for their family.
More than 319,000 refugees have repatriated to Burundi since UNHCR started assisting the repatriation in 2002. Most have returned from camps in Tanzania. Nearly 400,000 Burundians who fled inter-ethnic massacres in 1972 and again from 1993 to 1996 are still in exile.