People from Nyanza Lac are fleeing the country

Hunger and the fear of a civil war erupting after the elections are pushing many families in Nyanza Lac to leave Burundi.-By J.Berchmans Siboniyo

 Prudence Kabura, the administrator of Nyanza-Lacs(right) talking to IWACU ©Iwacu

Prudence Kabura, the administrator of Nyanza-Lacs(right) talking to IWACU ©Iwacu

More than 100 families have left their villages in Nyanza Lac, Makamba province. In Nyabigina village 60 families vacated their plots. Other departures are reported in Burambira, Muyange and Kazirabageni. Neighbors of those who left, say they went to Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi and Mozambique. They were lured by the vision of huge unexploited spaces that one can farm without disturbance.

Souvenir Nzorigendera, a returnee from Tanzania says she has nothing more than a shanty house damaged by termites. “I live on cassava leaves. All I have in this country is this house that is going to collapse in a few days. We are very anxious that one day it will bury us inside”, she says. Nzorigendera goes on saying that she only has an unfertile plot of land of 80 by 40 meter. “We aren’t allowed to benefit from the palm trees that are inside the small land. We were given some plots, but the trees inside remain the property of the former owner.”

Sylvestre Kabura, a local resident of Burambira village, where more than 28 families left, criticizes the fact that the government decided to take land from the local residents for distribution to returnees. “There are lands at Kibaba hill belonging to the government. Why did the local administration not use that land? We know of areas that were government property, but are now in the hands of some high ranked army officers”, he says, while the administration vehemently denies the claim.

The local administrator does acknowledge that they withdrew some portion of land from local residents in order to distribute it to returnees. “As the returnees consisted of more than 200 families, not all of them got a place to build a house or farm. We decided to sensitize people that they ought to share with their brothers from exile and they consented”, he says.Conversely, Rémégie Nkeshimana, a resident of the same village indicates that the social relations between returnees and local residents are deteriorating since the government decided to make them share their land. “Sometimes, both parties threaten each other with machetes”, he says.

Fear of civil war

Apart from hunger, people also leave because they fear a war will break out after elections. Rachelle Bayubahe, a resident of Nyabigina village indicates that there are many revelations from churches that warn of a war that will follow the electoral process. “Preachers tell us that God is fed up with our sins and wants to vomit out Burundi and its rulers. Some say they have visions about bloodshed in the country, irrespective of the outcome of the elections. This affects our hearts. We think about leaving the country”, she adds.