Burundi: Angry displaced families demand land

News and Press Release
Originally published
[This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]
BUJUMBURA, 27 July (IRIN) - Hundreds of internally displaced people (IPDs) have been camping out in front of a government building in Bujumbura since Monday to demand land they claim the government confiscated from them.

"We won't leave unless our problem has been settled," a middle-aged man told IRIN on Wednesday.

He, like the other IDPs in front of the government building, say they represent 609 families who have been displaced since Burundi's civil war started in 1993. They claim to have been given land in Bujumbura's Kinama neighbourhood by the former head of state Pierre Buyoya.

Buyoya visited the IDPs at Kinama in 1997 and made the announcement on national radio. However the IDPs have no documents to prove it.

The current government has now parcelled the land out to civil servants. Two weeks ago bulldozers from the ministry of public works destroyed the IDPs houses on the land.

One of the IDPs said, "We built the houses thinking the plot is still ours. Nobody informed us [otherwise]."

The IDPs say they now fear being thrown out of their current shelters on the military base. "We may be chased from the barrack at any time now," said one of them. "Where will we go?"

The minister of public works, Salvator Ntahomenyereye told reporters on Tuesday that the land in Kinama definitely belongs to the state. "Ask [the IDPs] if they have any proof that they own land," he said.

He said the IDPs had been temporally settled there but he also said that 10 hectares of land has now allocated to the IDPs by the ministry in charge of refugees and IDPs.

One of the IDPs camped out in front of the ministry said none of the IDPs know what land the minister is talking about. "Tell him to show us where the land is and we leave immediately," he said.


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