Govt relocates Burundian refugees as arrivals hit 10000

The government has started relocating Burundian refugees from Nyanza transit camp to Mahama camp in Kirehe District.
Some of the Burundian refugees are taken to Muyira Sector to register prior to being relocated to Kirehe. (Emmanuel Ntirenganya)
Some of the Burundian refugees are taken to Muyira Sector to register prior to being relocated to Kirehe. (Emmanuel Ntirenganya)

The government has started relocating Burundian refugees from Nyanza transit camp to Mahama camp in Kirehe District.

About 600 were transferred to the new camp yesterday. Nyanza transit camp was the most congested, hosting some 2,557 refugees, way above its 210 capacity. The relocation comes as the number of the Burundian refugees arrivals has hit 10,000.

Officials said basic infrastructure was set up at Mahama camp to accommodate the increasing number of refugees running away from political instability back home.

“Relocation to the new camp started with those hosted in Nyanza, where the congestion is higher,” said Frederic Ntawukuriryayo, the communication officer at the Ministry of Disaster Management and Refugee Affairs (Midmar).

“Next week, we will proceed with those in Bugesera. 600 people will be relocated each day.”
By Tuesday, 9,572 refugees, including 5,654 children and 2,371 women, had crossed into the country.

Bugesera transit camp had 6,964 refugees, while a new camp in Nyagatare had 51.
On Tuesday, 542 more refugees crossed into Rwanda.

When The New Times visited the camp in Bugesera, yesterday, a bus had arrived with more refugees.

Inside the camp, a group that arrived a day or so earlier was setting up their own makeshift shelters, while local government officials and Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) volunteers also moved to erect new hangers.

Juliette Kamwiza, 22, mid way a long queue near the camp entrance, was waiting to be treated for flu and headache by a medical team from African Humanitarian Action (AHA), a refugee rights’ group.

Many of the refugees have a mild flu but that is not their main concern.

The Senior Six student arrived on April 10 with three siblings, all of who have to forget about school until the situation back home stabilises.

Kamwiza said her parents let them come first as they, too, plot how to sneak out of the country with three other children back home.

“We were in a group of five, including neighbours’ kids. We paid cyclists 15,000 Burundi francs for the trip to the border. From there, we walked,” Kamwiza said.

The exodus stems from insecurity caused by the election fever ahead of forthcoming parliamentary and presidential elections.

The refugees claim to be fleeing from Imbonerakure (Kirundi word literally meaning “those that see far”), a youth wing of Burundi’s ruling party, the National Council for the Defence of Democracy Forces for Defence and Democracy (CNDD-FDD).

Imbonerakure are accused of harassing and attacking members of opposition political parties.

Further inside the camp, Marc Ndayishimiye, 27, a teacher, and others doing volunteer work with ADRA, are busy attending to children between the ages of four and nine.

Around them, children chirp cheerful Kirundi songs.

“This is a very good idea and we are helping the children have fun, be happy and not notice our despair,” Ndayishimiye said.

editorial@newtimes.co.rw

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