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Burundi: movement of Congolese in both directions

Briefing notes

Burundi: movement of Congolese in both directions

6 July 2004

Small numbers of Congolese continue to flee across the border into Burundi, while at the same time, hundreds of Congolese refugees have begun returning back to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to assess the situation in their home villages.

Since Saturday, some 100-200 Congolese refugees have been returning to the DRC each day. Most of those going back have been living in the villages outside the camps in Burundi's border zone, where an estimated 34,000 refugees have fled since early June. The returnees are mainly women who leave behind their other family members in Burundi while they go to assess the situation back home and check on their properties to plan their families' return. They say they intend to come back to Burundi after visiting their homes. Among those returning are also some students who are going to take their final school exams.

Meanwhile, the situation reportedly remains tense in DRC's south Kivu region. Congolese nationals continue to cross the border into Burundi in small numbers. They say they are afraid of the strong military presence patrolling in the region, and fear getting caught up in any conflict.

At the same time, the authorities in eastern DRC are campaigning to get the refugees in Burundi to return. Reportedly at the request of the central government in Kinshasa, the authorities in Uvira and Kamanyola are threatening to replace in their posts - particularly government employees and school headmasters - refugees who do not return soon. The refugees, however, have mixed feelings about returning at this point because the situation in the DRC remains uncertain.

However, daily life in Kamanyola and Luvungi in eastern DRC is reportedly gaining some semblance of normality. The regular movement of businessmen to and from Kamanyola has resumed, especially on market days at Rugombo.