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Mandela to visit Burundi refugees in Tanzania

Briefing notes

Mandela to visit Burundi refugees in Tanzania

27 February 2001

Former South African President Nelson Mandela, who is helping to broker a peace between Burundi's warring factions, travelled to western Tanzania today to tell tens of thousands of Burundi refugees about prospects for peace in their country.

A day after concluding a regional summit in the Tanzanian town of Arusha, Mandela will visit the UNHCR-run Lukole camp in Ngara. He will speak to refugees about the state of negotiations between predominantly Hutu and Tutsi parties. Burundi exiles from camps along the country's eastern border will also have the chance to express their concerns to the former South African leader during his one-day mission.

The trip to a refugee camp fulfils a stated wish by Mandela to speak directly with some of the civilians most affected by Burundi's enduring civil war. Refugees were eagerly anticipating Mandela's arrival and UNHCR brought 100 refugee representatives from both the Kobondo and Kasulu area camps to Lukole for the event. Lukole's population of nearly 110,000 makes it the largest of the Tanzanian camps and settlements that together host more than 500,000 Burundi refugees.

During the past five years, the number of Burundi refugees in neighbouring Tanzania has more than doubled, growing from 245,000 to nearly half a million. The seemingly intractable nature of the conflict has made donor governments increasingly reluctant to fund Burundi refugee programmes. The funds made available to UNHCR have shrunk from $83 per refugee per year in 1995 to just over $50 last year, causing a reduction in activities ranging from much-needed maintenance of primary schools and water pumps, the construction of health centres, to all purchases of soap and sanitary material.