New border crossing drums up interest in Burundian return
BUJUMBURA, Burundi, June 24 (UNHCR) - Going home after years in exile can be an emotional journey, but only a lucky few can expect to be moved by drums and dance the moment they set foot on their homeland.
On Wednesday, 245 Burundian refugees participated in the official opening of the border crossing from Tanzania to Makamba province in southern Burundi. This is the first crossing into southern Burundi, and the fourth between the two countries.
Arriving at Mugina transit centre, the returnees were welcomed by Agasimbo dance and drums in an elaborate ceremony attended by the Home Affairs Ministers of both countries, the Burundian Minister for the Reintegration and Resettlement of Internal Displaced Persons and Returnees, the Tanzanian Regional Commissioner of Kigoma, and UNHCR Representatives in Tanzania and Burundi.
Honorable Ramadhani Mapuri, the Tanzanian Minister of Home Affairs, stressed that although returnees have close ties with Tanzanians, the time has come to turn the page and adopt a new relationship based on economic and commercial exchanges.
"Welcome back home, we will share the little that we have," said Françoise Ngendahayo, the Burundian Minister for the Reintegration and Resettlement of Internal Displaced Persons and Returnees. "Although the country is poor, we are rich in spirit and thank God our soil is fertile."
Among Wednesday's returnees was Ndihobwayo Boniface, 28, who fled Burundi in 1996 when he was only 20. Now he has returned with his wife and five children. "I am happy to return with the whole family," he said. "There was no way I could raise my children in the camp. Life was so tough."
UNHCR Representative in Tanzania, Chrysantus Ache, and his counterpart in Burundi, Kaba Guichard Neyaga, provided useful advice to the returnees to help them reintegrate back home and contribute to the country's reconstruction.
Also on Wednesday, UNHCR met the governments of Burundi and Tanzania in Bujumbura for the 8th tripartite meeting for Burundian Voluntary Return. The committee noted that remarkable progress has been achieved but that the benchmarks for the promotion phase were not yet fully met.
The three heads of delegations called on the international community for funding in order to meet the challenges of reintegrating returnees in Burundi.
A total of 52,307 Burundian refugees have returned home since the beginning of this year, bringing returnee numbers since 2002 to 187,956.