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Congolese refugees start returning from Burundi; mixed feelings about security


Congolese refugees start returning from Burundi; mixed feelings about security

Hundreds of Congolese refugees who fled into Burundi in early June have returned home to assess the situation or to take final school exams. While there are still tensions in parts of eastern DR Congo, certain towns have resumed some semblance of normality.
6 July 2004
Congolese refugee women at the Burundi border make up the majority of returnees to eastern DR Congo.

RUGOMBO, Burundi, July 6 (UNHCR) - Hundreds of Congolese refugees - mostly women and students - have returned home from Burundi amid mixed feelings on the situation in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

Between 100 and 200 Congolese refugees have been crossing back home every day since last Saturday. Most of them were living in villages outside the camps in Burundi's border zone, where an estimated 34,000 people sought refuge after fleeing conflict in eastern DRC in early June.

Most of the returnees are women who leave their families in Burundi, crossing back into the DRC to assess the situation in their villages and to check on their property. They say they plan to report back to their families in Burundi before planning their return.

Among the returnees are also students who are going back to take their final school exams.

At the same time, the authorities in eastern DRC are encouraging the refugees to return home. The central government in Kinshasa has reportedly asked the authorities in Uvira and Kamanyola to threaten to replace refugees' posts - especially for government employees and school headmasters - if they do not return soon.

There are mixed feelings about return among the refugees in Burundi, given the uncertain situation in eastern DRC. South Kivu is reportedly still tense, and small numbers of Congolese nationals continue crossing into Burundi. These refugees say they are afraid of the strong military presence patrolling in the region, and fear getting caught up in any conflict.

However, some semblance of normality has returned to Kamayola and Luvungi, with businessmen moving regularly to and from Kamanyola, especially on market days across the border in Rugombo.