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Burundians return through new crossing to much fanfare

Burundians return through new crossing to much fanfare

More than 1,000 Burundian refugees in Tanzania have returned home through the new border crossing at Gahumo, eastern Burundi, where the latest group received a warm and festive welcome.
26 September 2003
Flag-flying returnees crossing from Tanzania into Burundi at Gahumo.

GAHUMO, Burundi, Sept 26 (UNHCR) - The excitement was unflagging. The women staged cultural dances while the 1,000-strong crowd proved so overwhelming that boys had to climb trees to catch a glimpse of the approaching convoy.

On Wednesday, 95 Burundian refugees returned home from Tanzania to much fanfare during the official opening of the Gahumo border crossing in eastern Burundi.

"I feel happy to hold this silky national flag," said an elated returnee, Nathalie Hicuburundi, clinging proudly to the Burundian flag throughout the whole ceremony. "I'm touching it for the first time and it makes me feel that I'm really home."

Leaping from the tree, Murengera Abdou ran to hug his uncle who had left the country two years ago.

"What a lucky boy! Many people who come here are searching for neighbours or relatives from among the returnees," observed Regina Nyabasase from Masango village as she held on her head a calabash of fresh water from Gahumo stream, 200 metres from the border.

At the ceremony, General T. Kiwelu, Commissioner of Kagera district who represented the Tanzanian Home Affairs Ministry, stressed that the Burundian people, particularly the belligerents, should work hard to restore peace all over the country and maintain a favourable return environment.

Gahumo's villagers dancing at the official opening ceremony.

Françoise Ngendahayo, the Burundian minister in charge of returnees and internally displaced people, added that the newcomers must challenge poverty and work for the development of the country.

Wednesday's returnees originate from the commune of Kigamba in Cankuzo province, eastern Burundi. They had come from refugee camps in the district of Kibondo, Tanzania, and were the sixth return convoy to pass through Gahumo. More than 1,000 people have returned through this crossing since it was opened on September 8.