Burundi refugees say they fear returning home


A number of Burundi refugees who spoke to US publication VOA say they fear returning to their home country.

Burundi is calling on more than 400,000 refugees who have fled since the country’s political crisis began in 2015 to return home. However, some say they fear they will be harmed by the government upon returning to the country they left behind.

‘No security in our country’

One such refugee who spoke to VOA is Jacqueline Nduwayezu, a former teacher who now lives with her six children in Rwanda’s Mahama refugee camp. Despite the Burundi government’s claims that peace has been restored in the country, the mother of six says that people are still being killed in her home nation.

“We are here because there is no security in our country,” she told VOA. “People were being killed and are still being killed and dumped in mass graves and rivers.”

Another refugee at the same camp says he was tortured and discriminated against at work because he was a member of a rival political party. He says this kind of violence must stop before refugees feel it is safe to return to Burundi.

Ongoing human rights questions

In July, Burundi President Pierre Nkurunziza called on all Burundi refugees to return home during a visit to neighbouring Tanzania. He promised that peace had been restored and that it was now safe for Burundians to return home and build a better nation.

“Today I want to tell Tanzanians and Burundians that Burundi is now peaceful, and I am inviting all Burundi refugees to return home,” Nkurunziza said.

His claim was backed up by Tanzania President John Magufuli who described Burundi as “calm” during Nkurunziza’s visit. However, rights groups disagree with this assessment of the events taking place in Burundi.

Amnesty International released a report in September suggesting that refugees returning to Burundi are at risk of violence or even death at the hands of security forces and pro-government militias.


Featured image: By MONUSCO Photos – Burundian refugees with water pipe., CC BY-SA 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=46293923

About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.