Early in the morning, the first passengers boarded a truck from Mahama camp to the Rwanda-Burundi border in Nemba in Bugesera District, donning masks, drinking water and seated in a bus respecting social distance as a measure of preventing Coronavirus spread. The total number of registered applicants is 1,800, but Burundi has announced that it will receive about 500 in the first phase.
The Burundians returned home voluntarily, expressing great joy at their returning home five years after fleeing the political turmoil that erupted when President Nkurunziza sought to run for a third term.
“When I heard that they had a refugee resettlement plan, I immediately decided to return. I was happy to be back in my country. I came to Rwanda 2017 from Kirundo.” Said Ndezi Nastivine
“I was pleased by the news of going back home. It is time for me to return to my former job at the bank, I no longer have a reason to be kept in refugee,” Said Philbert Harerimana another refugee.
Some refused to return home
Burundian refugees, who have returned, are voluntary registered but some say they refused to return.
“I ran away from being persecuted by the television and it didn’t end there. In 2014, my house was burned to the ground, when I found new a place to live, they would come and spy on me at night and decided to run away,”Niyonzima Prudence said.
Niyonzima said he would return to Burundi if security was assured.
“Some are still dying, others are still being persecuted. I will go back when I hear that no one is being persecuted, no one is being killed, no one is disappearing,” he said.
Rwanda hosts about 72,000 Burundian refugees. From 2015 to March when the border was closed due to the Coronavirus Pandemic, about 5,922 had voluntarily returned to Burundi.