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Burundi refugees refuse to return home

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IN SUMMARY

At a rally organised for a team led by Burundi Minister for Home Affairs Pascal Barandagiye, the refugees in Nakivale settlement demanded justice, an African Union force to protect those opposed to the government, and the resignation of President Pierre Nkurunziza before they could return home.

Burundian officials who had travelled to Uganda to persuade their nationals to return home left empty-handed after they were met with a hostile reception.

At a rally organised for a team led by Burundi Minister for Home Affairs Pascal Barandagiye, the refugees in Nakivale settlement demanded justice, an African Union force to protect those opposed to the government, and the resignation of President Pierre Nkurunziza before they could return home.

“To become a refugee, there must be a cause. In our case it was a man that chose to stand for a third term. Is he no longer there so that we can return home?” asked Jevunel Gahungu, a former Member of Parliament affiliated to Frodebu political party.

Frodebu is among the five opposition political parties that President Nkurunziza has insisted should be kept away from the President Benjamin Mkapa led peace talks currently going on in Arusha, Tanzania.

Mr Gahungu said the government now targets particular individuals, an allegation that is backed by civil society organisations.

To guard against such targeted killings, Mr Gahungu said that Bujumbura should allow the African Union to send troops, so that those opposed to President Nkurunziza feel protected. But the Nkurunziza government has been hostile to this suggestion.

Mr Gahungu added that, if Burundi is to go back to the peace building process, the government has to allow talks with the main political parties including FNL, Frolina, Piebu Abanyeshaka, Radebu and Frodebu. The peace talks in Arusha have excluded these political parties which Bujumbura says are made up of criminals.

To return as free citizens, the refugees demanded for justice and reparation for themselves and their relatives.

Uganda, which hosts about 45, 000 Burundians, was Mr Barandagiye’s first stop. He planned to head to Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo next.