The voluntary repatriation of Burundian refugees from neighboring countries has gained momentum as more than seven hundred Burundian refugees were repatriated from the refugee camps in Tanzania last Thursday 17.09.2020 despite COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the Burundian government the exercise is conducted through the tripartite agreement between the UNHCR, Burundi and Tanzanian government.
“Those repatriated consisted of 243 families from the refugee camps in Tanzania and were warmly welcomed at the Mugina border post in Makamba province,” a statement read from the Burundi Internal Affairs Ministry.
This comes after last week 507 Burundian refugees were repatriated from the Mahama refugee camp located in Rwanda through the Gasenyi-Nemba border between the two countries.
The repatriation of the Burundian refugees from Rwanda is part of the voluntary repatriation of the refugees facilitated by the UNHCR and the two East African countries.
“Starting from this week we will be receiving twice a week convoys of Burundian refugees from Rwanda and everything is in place to facilitate the operation,” said Pierre Nkurikiye the spokesman of internal affairs minister.
Despite the borders remaining closed due to the CPVID-19 pandemic, the repatriation of Burundian refugees from Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda continued with medical team and mobile laboratories put in place for the screening of the returnees.
About 113 Burundians who were stranded in Rwanda after the border closure as part of the COVID-19 preventive measures were last week granted entry after spending more than four months in Rwanda.
“Burundi is ready to receive the returnees and Burundians should be open and welcome their brothers and sisters,” said Burundi president Evariste Ndayishimiye earlier this month.
In August 2017 representatives of Burundi and Tanzanian government alongside the UN refugee agency held a tripartite meeting to facilitate voluntary repatriation of Burundian refugees from Tanzania.
Last week more than 500 Burundians were repatriated from Tanzania as part of the tripartite agreement for the voluntary repatriation of refugees.
Burundi and Rwanda relations seems to remain at an all-time low as Burundi president Evariste Ndayishimiye last month accused neighboring Rwanda of holding the Burundian refugees hostage, calling on Kigali to extradite some opposition members who had seek refuge in Rwanda as Gitega accuses the latter of plotting the 2015 failed coup to oust late Pierre Nkurunziza’s government.
On August 26th, 2020 a meeting was conducted between Burundi and Rwanda military intelligence officials in efforts to normalize the relations between the two countries.
For the past four years border communities between the two countries witnessed armed attacks and counter attacks, leading to dozens of citizens losing their lives from both sides.
In a televised interview by Rwanda’s state Broadcaster, the Rwanda president Paul Kagame said that his country made efforts to normalize the relation with Burundi and Uganda and there is still more work to do in efforts to resolve the current crisis between the Rwanda and the two EAC partner states.
“Like Burundi you’ve followed how we tried to do what we could depending on the time but Burundi didn’t respond as it was supposed but for us we showed the need,” said President Paul Kagame during an interview with the Rwandan state broadcaster last week.
Burundi and Rwanda relations deteriorated since 2015 when protests erupted against the late former president Pierre Nkuruziza’s move to run for a third term in the office, which opposition believed violated the country’s constitution which limits any president to run for more than two terms.
Burundi accuses Rwanda of masterminding the 2015 failed coup and sheltering opposition members accused of plotting the aborted coup, while Rwanda accuses Burundi of hosting the FDLR rebels who are accuse by Kigali of committing the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi.