Why haven’t these internally displaced people returned home?

Non-internally displaced people have started building their homes in the Kabezi camp.

Non-internally displaced people have started building their homes in the Kabezi camp.

The civil war that followed the assassination of the first democratically elected Melchior Ndadaye in 1993 caused many Burundians to be internally displaced.

Many camps are still open till today even though the war was completely brought to an end in 2008 when the last rebel group, FNL, signed a peace agreement with the government.

Displaced people living in Kabezi camp put forwards various reasons why they prefer to stay in the camp.
For some, the camp has become their new home so that they don’t fancy leaving it. For others “going back and building new homes requires means we cannot afford”, says Léocadie Ndenzako, a 61 years old widow.

The fear for living in isolation as many of their neighbours have settled elsewhere also prevents them from returning home. Frédérick Nyanduruko, 76, says “we can’t go back and live alone. Many of our former neighbours have made their homes somewhere else”.

A woman who didn’t want to be named claims she fears for her security if she returns home. She says the “divisive rhetoric has resurrected as we are associated with the failed coup-plotters”.

She says that sensitization to peaceful coexistence is prerequisite to ensure her and her likes’ security.

The Ministry of Home Affairs dismisses claims that security for some particular groups of Burundians is not guaranteed. “None should stay in camps alleging their security is not ensured because the war has ended”, says Thérence Ntahiraja, the Ministry’s spokesman.

He says that there is no problem if those internally displaced people living in camps built on land belonging to the government remain there provided they transform the camps into villages where any person from any ethnic group can own a home.

“If they stay there and make villages, it’s a great idea”, says the Ministry’s spokesman. “However, the villages should not exclusively belong to any particular group of people, but to anyone who wishes to build there”, he says.

The issue is with people living in camps built on other people’s land. The spokesman for the Ministry says it’s unfair that people live on others’ lands and reserve their own lands for farming.

To those who wish to regain their former residences, Ntahiraja says the Ministry of Home Affairs is ready to provide them with assistance.