By Monia Arakaza
Every morning, gangs of youth pour into the Ruhororo commune, of Ngozi province chanting anti-Tutsi slogans. The youth are members of the pro-government Imbonerakure militia, and the targets of their taunts are some 15,000 Tutsis who fled massacres in their homes after the assassination of President Melchior Ndadaye in October 1993.
The youth circle any random number of the 2,400 households. “They accuse us of harboring the fighters and some of our young people are often and unjustly arrested after being accused of being rebels,” one resident said.
Political tensions in Burundi have seen local authorities finger people displaced in the 1993 war of giving intelligence to armed rebels based in Rwanda and giving them help. Even though Tutsi and Hutus straddle Rwanda and Burundi, a Tutsi-led government is in charge in Rwanda while Pierre Nkurunziza’s government in Burundi is controlled by the Hutu.
Authorities insist that since there is peace in Burundi, the refugee site is unnecessary, and must be closed so people from the interior of the country can return to homes they abandoned in 1993.
Internally displaced persons who have lived at the site for over 15 years fear that local authorities are using dirty tricks to break camp, and deny helping the Rwanda-based rebels.
“All that the leaders accuse us of is unfounded. Even if they were asked to give the names of these fighters who would be housed in our homes, no one would be able to mention even a single name,” says N. Bernard, a refugee at the Ruhororo camp.
“We live with fear in the gut when the authorities and ruling party officials start to blame us for supporting the rebels; it is a situation that puts us in danger,” says Reverien K.
“We are not ready to go back to our homes,” he adds.
The refugees left all their belongings behind as they fled massacres that followed the assassination of President Ndadaye in Rwanda alongside President Juvenal Habyarimana. The refugees say the people who forced them flee are still on the hills.
“During the 1993 massacres, all members of my family were killed. The executioners are still there and they do not worry about anything. We can not go home when justice is not done yet. I prefer to die here in this camp,” says sexagenarian Paul M.
The refugees demand that they be heard to and that leaders stop intimidating them.