President Nkurunziza ventures out, asks refugees to go home

Saturday July 22 2017

President Pierre Nkurunziza (left) met with his Tanzanian counterpart John Magufuli in Ngara in northwestern Tanzania on July 20, 2017. PHOTO | BURUNDI PRESIDENCY


President Pierre Nkurunziza on Thursday met with his Tanzanian counterpart John Magufuli in Ngara in northwestern Tanzania in his first ever trip outside Burundi since the failed May 2015 coup.

The Burundian leader was attending the East African Heads of State Summit in Dar es Salaam when a coup d’état was declared by General Godefroid Niyombare. The coup attempt was crushed in 24 hours, but in the ensuing political crisis, more than 500 people have been killed and 380,000 others displaced.

On Thursday, the two East African leaders met in a small town near their common border and held talks on bilateral issues, including security and refugees.

“We talked about the security situation, especially regarding those Burundians who fled to Tanzania,” President Nkurunziza said.

He asked the Burundians in Tanzanian refugee camps to return home, assuring them that there is peace and stability in Bujumbura.

President Nkurunziza noted that more than 150,000 Burundians had returned home “without the support of the United Nations.”



Tanzania’s Home Affairs Minister Mwigulu Nchemba said that 200,000 Burundians had been given Tanzanian citizenship since 2006.

Mr Nchemba said Tanzania was hosting 247,000 Burundians in its refugee camps. He added that at least 5,000 of those in the camps had registered for the voluntary repatriation programme.

President Magufuli supported the programme, appealing to the Burundians to go home and build their country. Burundi has relatively gained stability after two years of violent clashes in Bujumbura and its environs.

President Nkurunziza’s Tanzanian visit came a few weeks after the UN Secretary-General’s Special Envoy Michel Kafando ended two-week consultations with stakeholders in the Burundi talks.

Mr Kafando was appointed in May by the United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres to lead and co-ordinate UN’s political efforts to promote peace and sustainable development in Burundi. He is working with the East African Community to promote dialogue among Burundian leaders.

Although grenade attacks in public places have been witnessed in recent months, claiming at least eight lives and injuring 70 people, the Burundi government says that the crime rate has gone down by 32 per cent in the past three months.

“The security situation has continued to improve, but we noted cases of grenade attacks and terrorist acts in some localities of Bujumbura,” said Public Security Minister Alain Guillaume Bunyoni.

Illegal weapons

He said security agencies have conducted operations that have have netted 43 illegal weapons and 1,212 suspects.

Last week alone, police impounded more than 150 vehicles without legal documents which spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye said were suspected to be used in criminal activities. The police have mounted roadblocks and checkpoints on the streets and major roads which they say have boosted security in the country.

The Burundi National Human Rights Council says rights abuses have decreased but several people have been disappeared.