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Tanzania demand UN agency must repatriate Burundi refugees

DAR ES SALAAM Tanzania (Xinhua) -- Tanzania’s Minister for Home Affairs, Mwigulu Nchemba, has demanded the UN refugees agency to start repatriating over 8,000 Burundian refugees who have volunteered to go back home within seven days.

Speaking at Nduta refugee camp in the east African nation’s western region of Kigoma, Nchemba said the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) should immediately start organizing logistics for the safe return of the refugees.

"Failure to repatriate the refugees, I will consult with the Minister for Defence to release military trucks that will ferry the refugees to Burundi," said Nchemba.

He said since the refugees volunteered to return to Burundi last month, nothing was moving ahead.

Late last month, more than 5,000 Burundian refugees staying in camps in western Tanzania volunteered to return home following a recent appeal by Tanzanian President John Magufuli to them to return home and help build their country.

Emmanuel Maganga, the Kigoma Regional Commissioner, said 5,327 Burundian refugees from Nduta, Nyarugusu and Mtendeli refugee camps had volunteered to go home, adding that 4,935 of them were from Nduta, 364 from Nyarugusu and 28 from Mtendeli.

Currently Nduta sheltered 124,914 Burundian refugees, Nyarugusu 75,761 refugees and Mtendeli 49,839 refugees.

Maganga said the voluntary repatriation was continuous but explained that the Kigoma regional authorities were awaiting a tripartite meeting between Tanzania, Burundi and UNHCR to deliberate on the voluntary return of the refugees.

"After that meeting Burundian leaders will be allowed to visit refugee camps in Tanzania and convince the refugees to return home," he said.

On July 20, Magufuli called on the Burundian refugees now in the country to return home voluntarily and help build their country, asserting that now there was security in the tiny central African country.

Magufuli’s remarks were in support of an earlier plea by Burundian president Pierre Nkurunziza, who had called on his fellow countrymen to go back home and help rebuild their country because the "war is over."

Magufuli also took a swipe at international humanitarian bodies for trying to convince refugees not to return to their home countries due to continued insecurity, just so they can continue receiving aid from donors.

The president also directed the Ministry of Home Affairs not to grant citizenship to any more Burundian refugees coming into Tanzania.

In 2014, Tanzania announced that it was in the process of granting citizenship to 162,000 Burundian refugees who had fled their country in 1972.

In June, the UN refugee agency said Tanzania remained the largest host of Burundian refugees.

Tanzania is currently home to more than 315,000 refugees and asylum-seekers, mainly from Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. They are hosted in three refugee camps of Nyarugusu, Nduta, and Mtendeli, which face severe pressure.


Burundi urges facilitator to identify "real" refugees

BUJUMBURA Burundi (Xinhua) -- Burundi has urged former Tanzanian President Benjamin Mkapa, the facilitator of the Burundi dialogue, to visit refugee camps to identify "real" refugees, the Burundi justice minister said Monday.

In an interview with Xinhua on Monday, Aimee Laurentine Kanyana urged Mkapa, the facilitator for the East African Community (EAC)-led Inter-Burundi Dialogue, to check whether those refugees had fled Burundi fearing for their personal security.

Mkapa and other facilitation delegates visited Burundi from August 14 to 19. The main objective of the visit to Burundi was aimed at requesting Burundian authorities to promote "inclusiveness" in the Inter-Burundi Dialogue, which aims to find a solution to the political crisis in Burundi.

"Burundi is now enjoying peace and security.

"We don’t understand why Burundian refugees don’t return home.

"That’s why we requested the delegates from the facilitator to visit refugee camps hosting Burundian people to check reasons that push them to remain in refugee camps," said the minister during the interview.

"Some people flee problems in their families, others flee because they have robbed banks or because they are taken big bank loans that they are unable to pay back; others flee because they have committed big offences and others flee because they will be transferred to Europe or to America," Kanyana said.

According to her, the facilitation in the dialogue should visit those refugees and talk to the UN Refugee Agency in order to "review" the profile of refugees.

"At the internal level of the dialogue, there was no discrimination.

"Even at the external level of the dialogue held under the auspices of the East African Community (EAC) facilitation team, there is no discrimination either," Kanyana said.

She added that the Burundian government will "never accept" to sit on the same table with people who attempted to overthrow the east African country’s democratic institutions on May 13, 2015, and people who "organized the insurgency" in April 2015.

"We have called for the repatriation of the external dialogue because there is no reason of holding talks out of Burundi," Kanyana said.

Launched in December 2015, the Inter-Burundi Dialogue talks at the external level under the East African Community (EAC) auspices, with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni as the mediator, have made no concrete progress.

In January 2016, the Burundian government boycotted talks in Arusha, Tanzania, arguing that it could not sit on the same table with what it called "non-peaceful" stakeholders.

In March that year, the EAC heads of state summit appointed the former Tanzanian president as the facilitator of the dialogue.

Mkapa organized separate consultations with stakeholders in the dialogue, but real negotiations have not yet taken place.

Burundi plunged into a crisis since April 2015 when Burundian President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to run his controversial third term bid.

His candidature, which was opposed by the opposition and civil society groups, resulted in a wave of protests, violence and even a failed coup on May 13, 2015.

Over 410,000 people have fled to other countries mostly Tanzania, Rwanda, DR Congo and Uganda since the outbreak of the crisis.



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