Burundi welcomes returnees

Bujumbura- Burundi (PANA) -- The minister in charge of re- integration and resettlement of displaced people Wednesday said Burundi was ready to welcome "in dignity" all refugees who voluntarily return home.
Minister Pascal Nkurunziza said "respect for refugees and displaced people requires their voluntary repatriation and resettlement in localities of origin.
" He noted that African Refugee Day was being celebrated when Burundi politicians, after several years of political turmoil, have just concluded a peace agreement that gives priority to resolving the problems of refugees.
The agreement provides for the setting up of a national commission for the rehabilitation of the victims of the Burundi conflict, including refugees, as soon as the conditions for their return are met.
Some 200,000 Burundian refugees have voluntarily returned home since 1996, but thousands more are still outside due to eight years of civil war in the country.
The number of Burundian exiles currently exceeds 500,000, with 95 percent of them living in Tanzania, according to official statistics.
However, the phenomenon of refugees in Burundi predates the current civil war.
Since independence in 1960, the country has been shaken by cyclical ethnic wars, during which several massacres took place, driving thousands of refugees, mainly from the majority Hutu ethnic group into neighbouring countries.
The bloodiest years in Burundi were 1965, 1969, 1972, 1979, 1988 and 1993.
Recurrent bloody conflicts in Burundi for the past 40 years have caused huge movements of refugees, mainly to Rwanda, DR Congo and Tanzania.
Some 200,000 refugees, who left Burundi in 1965, 1972 and 1988, are mostly integrated in Tanzanian society, according to official statistics.
The second category estimated to be 342,202 people, left Burundi in 1993.
The civil war has also displaced some 800,000 people internally.

20 june 2001 20:06:00

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