Interior Minister calls on Burundian refugees to come back home

Burundi Minister of the Interior is calling on Burundian refugees to come back into the fold. Some refugees say the time is not yet opportune to return to Burundi. Their security is not ensured, according to them.

Burundian refugees in Mahama camp

Burundian refugees in Mahama camp

“Some Burundians in exile say they are afraid of returning home thinking they will be arrested or brought to justice when arrived in Burundi for crimes they committed before leaving the country, “said yesterday Hon. Odette Habonimana.

In response to this MP, Minister Barandagiye said the Government of Burundi is making an effort to facilitate the return of Burundian refugees. “We encourage all Burundians to return to their country,” he said.

The Attorney General of the Republic of Burundi has published the list of people wanted by Burundi justice. They are accused of participating in the 2015 coup attempt, according to Barandagiye.

Barandagiye also said young people who are in refugee camps in Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda are not being prosecuted. “We know they have been manipulated by politicians. Nobody prevent them from coming back home, “he said. He said the government would welcome them when they arrive.

A young Burundian refugee in Rwanda who wants to remain anonymous said he was not ready to return because he did not flee the government, rather the members of the Government. “I am not wanted by Burundian Justice since I have not committed any crime. But, I was intimidated by some members of the government, “he said.

A human rights activist in exile in Rwanda describes the remarks of Minister of the Interior as political speech. “I, who escaped death, cannot return to Burundi since those who attempted to kill me are still in the country and have already killed our brothers and friends,” he said. For him, it is not yet opportune for refugees to return to the country as long as the political opponents and members of the human rights organizations are still persecuted. He refered to Germain Rukuki, a member the Action of Christians for the Abolition of Torture in Burundi (ACAT-Burundi) who was arrested in the city of Bujumbura on 13 July. “He was accused of delivering information to human rights activists in exile,” said a young man in exile in Rwanda.

ACAT Burundi is one of 10 civil society organizations suspended in Burundi. Burundi has plunged into a violent political crisis since President Pierre Nkurunziza announced a controversial run for a third term, which he won in in July 2015. Human rights organizations continue to report targeted arrests, arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment of real or perceived opposition members and supporters, as well as extra-judicial killings and forced disappearances. Burundi crisis has made more than 1 200 dead, 400 to 900 missing, 10,000 people detained for political reasons and it has forced over 400 000 people in the exile, according to the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH).