Panafrican News Agency

Repatriation of Burundian refugees, 'hate speech' by Burundian officials dominate headlines in Rwanda

Kigali, Rwanda (PANA) - Rwandan newspapers this week highlighted the repatriation of some 471 Burundian refugees who returned home after spending almost five years living in Mahama Camp, one of the largest camps located in south eastern Rwanda.

The dailies also assessed what they described as "hate speech", referring to latest statements by political leaders in neighbouring Burundi at public gatherings, a situation that, they claim, has triggered ethnic tensions.

The English daily 'Taarifa' wrote that little is known about Burundi’s legislation on hate speech, ethnic divisionism and other commitments that could lead to civil disobedience or hate that could pit one ethnic group against the other.

In an exclusive interview with the newspaper, Fabien Segatwa, a Burundian criminal lawyer, noted that the current situation in Burundi regarding the manner in which people express themselves is recipe for possible genocide and crimes against humanity.

He said everyone believe they are defending their ethnic group and inject poison into the society to which they believe they belong.

"The result is that [we] find ourselves in a society where each other looks at each other like faience dogs. The genocide is brewing. The public authorities should be able to severely crack down on hate messages," Segatwa said.

The dailies also touched on repatriation of Burundian refugees who earlier this week returned home.

The semi-private 'KT Press' wrote that this is the first batch that repatriates such a big number. The repatriation was facilitated by the government of Rwanda and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

According to the newspaper, this follows a letter that refugees addressed to their government in Burundi in mid-August, asking for a dignified repatriation.

The departing Burundian refugees were tested for COVID-19 before boarding their buses and sitting in accordance to Rwanda’s measures in the fight against COVID-19 spread.

Some refugees commended the hospitality they enjoyed while in Rwanda. The newspaper reported that the majority of them fled the country following the political crisis that gripped Burundi in 2015 when the then President, the late Pierre Nkurunziza, decided to seek a third term, leading to countrywide protests as people opposed the move.

Representatives of Burundian refugees told the newspaper that the Burundian leader has failed to live up to the promise he made during his swearing-in ceremony in June, during which he declared that he will ensure that all Burundian refugees who were still in neighbouring countries would return home, in a bid to reconcile the country.

The new accusation follows comments made by President Ndayishimiye on Thursday in Busoni, Kirundo Province, which borders Rwanda, saying that his government will not seek to make friends with a country, which he did not name, which harbours his country’s enemies and holds Burundian refugees at ransom.

In another article, the English daily 'The New Times' wrote that the Rwandan Ministry in charge of Emergency Management (MINEMA) has said that Rwanda reaffirms the principle of voluntary repatriation as a durable solution for refugees, in accordance with international and Rwandan law.

Some of the Burundian refugees, who signed the petition seeking voluntary repatriation, told 'The New Times' that they fled because of the political crisis and insecurity stemming mainly from former President Nkurunziza's bid to serve a controversial third term.

But they contended that peace has been restored in their country based on the fact that the third term threat is over, and an elected President is in power.

Under the headline "Rwanda, Burundi move to restore security ties", the newspaper reported that ahead the repatriation of first the batch of Burundian refugees, military intelligence chiefs from the two countries met at Nemba One-Stop Border Post in Bugesera District in southeast Rwanda, to iron out the differences that have led to a crisis, which began in 2015.

According to the newspaper this was the first known physical high-level meeting that has brought together officials from both countries in a while for both sides to discuss the strained relations.

Brigadier General Vincent Nyakarundi, the Head of Defence Intelligence at the Rwanda Defence Force (RDF), led the Rwandan delegation, while Colonel Ernest Musaba, Burundi’s chief of military intelligence-led the Burundian delegation.

The meeting was facilitated by Colonel Leon Mahoungou, the Commander of the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism (EJVM), a regional military framework under the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).

According to the mediator, the two countries agreed that they must be “committed to restoring dialogue and communication between the two intelligence services”.

They will seek advice from their chiefs of defence staff so that the exchange of information, as far as security along the two countries’ borders is concerned, can be enhanced.

-0- PANA TWA/MA 29Aug2020