124 Burundians from different jails of the Democratic Republic of Congo-DRC have been handed over to Burundian authorities this Tuesday 31 January 2017. The “repatriation” was voluntary, says Marcelin Luhoyo Tchichambo, Governor of South Kivu bordering Burundi.
There were crowds of Burundians and Congolese at the Burundi-Congo frontier in Gatumba locality. Many of them were soldiers, police officers as well as journalists from different media awaiting Burundian youths to be handed over to Burundi officials.
From DRC, the young boys wearing dirty clothes, some barefoot, were brought to the frontier by a big truck surrounded by Congolese armed forces.
From the Congolese side, the youths were grouped into lines of between 6 and 20 persons. After the registration by Burundian police officers on the Burundian side, they got on Burundi police trucks.
Tchichambo Governor of South Kivu, a DRC province bordering Burundi, said those Burundian youths were found in Congolese streets without any identification and were imprisoned. One of them said anonymously that he was in a refugee camp and had gone to search for food. He was arrested accused of being a rebel before being incarcerated.
“Among those detainees who were at the frontier, 124 have been handed over to the Burundian authorities, 35 have refused to be forcibly repatriated for fear of being killed once in Burundi. Some 18 have been identified as Rwandese and will be handed over to Rwandan authorities. Twelve of them were recognized by HCR and the National Commission for Refugees in Congo- CNR and then they will be repatriated in case they need to. Two others are sick and stay in Uvira hospital in DRC until they recover”, said Tchichambo.
United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in DRC-MONUSCO and UNHCR were there. One of MONUSCO members who were present said they wanted to make sure the human rights are respected.
Aimée Laurentine Kanyana, Burundi Justice Minister said it is a good act by Congolese government to bring the refugees. “We thanked the repatriated for their will to come back to their country. They set an example to those who are still in exile”, she said, promising that they are going to do their best to ensure their security.
According to Kanyana, the young “repatriated” would be some of the youths who have been taken abroad to be recruited by armed groups in the last two years, following numerous promises. “They have decided to return home because they have realized they have been manipulated into lies”, she said.
«This was not the matter of justice. If it were, it would be dealt with by prosecutors”, said Dieudonné Bashirahishize, one of Burundi’s lawyers.
The Governor of South Kivu province said there are other 2000 Burundians in Congolese refugee camps.