Burundi Claims Crisis Is Over as It Expects Refugees to ReturnBy
Government’s assertion of calm disputed by opposition figure
Unrest that began 2015 forced many to flee to Tanzania, Rwanda
Burundi’s government said it expects 60,000 refugees to return next year in a sign the East African nation’s more than two-year political crisis is over, a claim disputed by an opposition leader who described conditions as still too dangerous.
“Many of the refugees have seen that they fled nothing and that the country is
calm,” Interior Ministry spokesman Terence Ntahiraja said in an interview on national radio on Thursday. He said returnees would be given three months’ food rations and unspecified other support.
The landlocked nation has been rocked by unrest that’s claimed hundreds of lives since April 2015, when President Pierre Nkurunziza began steps to win a third term, a move his opponents said was unconstitutional. The United Nations has said more than 400,000 people fled to countries including Tanzania, Uganda and Rwanda, although the government hasn’t commented on the figure, only saying many have returned.
The vice president of the opposition Frodebu party, Leonce Ngendakumana, described the government’s statement as “blind propaganda.”
“Among those who returned, some went back to refugee camps because they saw what they were told -- that the country was calm -- was not true,” he said by phone. “The reason why they fled is always there, it is impossible for them to come back right now.”
UN representatives in Burundi didn’t answer calls seeking comment.