Burundi

Burundi: Moise Barekezabe, "Home is home, despite the hardships"

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RUKARAMU, 30 May 2007 (IRIN) - Moise Barekezabe, 40, one of thousands of internally displaced people (IDPs) in Burundi, is happy to be back in the country despite living in camps, without a job or income, since his return in 2002.

Barekezabe left with his parents in 1972 when he was only four, fleeing the civil war. Together with Burundian refugees who had lived for years in the neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Barekezabe returned home due to civil war in the DRC.

"When my parents left the country, we moved through Tanzania and Rwanda before finally living as refugees in the DRC. My parents died there.

"We decided to come back in 2002 because of the war in the DRC. Initially we returned to Gatumba [a commune near the Burundi-DRC border] but after the killings of Congolese refugees there in 2004, we were moved here to Rukaramu [a commune in Bujumbura Rural, the province around the capital, Bujumbura].

"I could not return to the land my parents owned because it was occupied a long time ago; besides I would not even know where it is: all I know is it was in Gitega Province. But all the land has been taken. So we are here in this camp, I have a sister who also lives here. I could not locate any other relatives upon my return.

"Although we live in very poor conditions here, we thank God because we have these houses [built with contributions from UN agencies on land provided by the government]. However, we have no land to till; we survive by begging or working for the neighbouring communities.

"When I compare life in the DRC with this here at the camp, I can say it is somehow different; this is home. Home is home despite all the suffering and hardship. At least I can say I am in my house.

"I have a wife and five children, some of whom are in the school [nearby] put up with the help of the UNHCR [UN High Commissioner for Refugees]. My wife is jobless, I am jobless. Whenever we get work in neighbouring farms, we are only paid in food or part of the harvest, we don't get money.

"It is good that the government has made healthcare free for children and expectant mothers but what about us who do not have money? Initially we had documents showing that we had just returned to the country so we got treatment free of charge but these documents have expired and we have no way of renewing them. We are now at the mercy of diseases such as malaria and worms.

"Looking ahead, I don't see any hope. We had hoped the government would help us with land to cultivate but it says it is still investigating to see where to settle us; it has been four years, we are still waiting.

"The biggest challenge for me is: how can I help my family? If only I got a job or some money to put my affairs in order. We are near the capital; I think I could help my family if I got a job or some money.

"In the meantime, malaria and worms are killing us; the mosquito nets we have are tattered, so they no longer protect against the mosquitoes and as you can see, we are next to a rice-growing project and there is stagnant water all over. We do not have safe drinking water, and our children are at great risk of catching waterborne diseases and this worries me very much."

js/mw

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