Close sites icon close
Search form

Search for the country site.

Country profile

Country website

Burundi: Congolese refugees relocated away from border

Briefing notes

Burundi: Congolese refugees relocated away from border

17 December 2002

In Burundi, UNHCR last week began moving more than 7,000 Congolese refugees from the volatile border area to a newly developed camp in Cishemeye, Cibitoke province, some 70 km north of the capital, Bujumbura. The relocation movement got underway last week with the transfer of a first group of 130 refugees from the makeshift site at Gatumba, which is currently hosting 400 refugees.

Meanwhile, small but steady numbers of refugees keep arriving daily in Burundi from the south Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Since November 20, more than 1,000 new refugees have fled to Burundi. Most of them are currently at the site in Rugombo - the other makeshift site near the border. They will also be transferred to the new camp inland.

Refugees at the border sites are part of a group of nearly 15,000 Congolese refugees who fled an outbreak of heavy fighting for the town of Uvira, on the DRC shores of Lake Tanganyika, in mid-October. The fighting, which pitted Mai-Mai rebels against the rebel Congolese Rally for the Return to Democracy (RCD-Goma), also displaced hundreds of Congolese into the southern Rwanda town of Cyangugu and into the Kigoma area of western Tanzania. However, more than half of the refugees uprooted by the fighting returned home spontaneously before the transfer began.

But many of the new refugees arriving recently in western Burundi from south Kivu say their homes in Uvira remain unsafe. This is particularly true at night, when Mai-Mai militia and rebels of the Burundi Front National Pour La Libération (FNL) who are operating from south Kivu, reportedly raid homes and loot provisions and other property from town residents. One such raid by Burundi rebels on December 3 left 18 people dead in the small village of Kiliba, close to Uvira. The rebels are said to have killed the villagers in retaliation for the alleged killing of some rebel fighters in the area. The new arrivals also say they that they have been unable to go to their rice fields on the Rusizi Plains during the day for fear of attacks by rebels.