Thursday, June 5, 2008
of civilians who fled their homes near the Burundian capital of
Bujumbura in May following clashes between the army and opposition
fighters have returned to their villages, a senior official announced.
went back because the situation has returned to normal although there
are still some cases of theft," Zenon Ndaruvukanye, the governor of
Bujumbura Rural province, said on 5 June. "They received aid including
blankets, soap and jerry cans from the Burundi Red Cross and the
International Committee of the Red Cross."
At least 20,000
people fled fighting between the army and Forces nationales de
libération (FNL) fighters in and around Kabezi, 20 km south of
The FNL is Burundi's last active armed opposition group.
fighters have generally held their fire since the return to Bujumbura,
on 30 May, of their leader Agathon Rwasa, who had been in exile in
Rwasa's presence in the capital, which has been
widely welcomed as a "significant" development, should speed up the
country's hitherto slow peace process, aid workers said.
of the displaced civilians were from Kiremba, Mena, Ramba, Gitenga and
parts of Mwara, close to where the fighting broke out on 7 May. Many
had sought refuge at Kabezi health centre, a nearby primary school and
Some of the displaced had told IRIN earlier that
they would not return to their homes until the army, which was deployed
against the FNL fighters, was removed.
"The military positions are still there; the ones who were refusing to go home were FNL supporters," Ndaruvukanye told IRIN.
returning civilians, he added, had received some rice from the ministry
for national solidarity. But they still needed more food aid.
fighting followed earlier clashes in April, which the FNL carried out
in violation of a September 2006 ceasefire agreement, prompting the
army to shell the group's positions in Bujumbura Rural.
report on 30 May, Human Rights Watch criticised the Burundian
government for detaining at least 300 people "solely as suspected
members of a movement long opposed to the government". Many of them
were civilians arrested after the FNL bombardment.
eventually pushed back the FNL into the hills. The FNL agreed to a new
ceasefire with the government on 26 May, halting the clashes. Three
days later, the police released 102 of the detainees in a "gesture of
good faith from the government".
The Tanzania-based FNL
leadership returned to Bujumbura to discuss implementing the 2006
ceasefire, and expects that a law guaranteeing them "provisional
immunity" from arrest will be adopted when parliament eventually meets.
Welcoming their return, the European Union urged them to
"pursue the peace process in a constructive manner in order that the
provisions of the comprehensive ceasefire agreement and its various
annexes can be fully implemented as rapidly as possible."
the guns remain silent, aid workers in Bujumbura said, many more of the
estimated 100,000 Burundians who were displaced by conflict over the
years, could return to their homes.
In Magara, Bugarama
commune of Bujumbura Rural province, about 500 families have returned
home following the May ceasefire, according to the UN Office for the
Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. However, in Gitwaro, returnees
found their homes looted, crops harvested and domestic animals eaten by
the armed groups that had occupied the area
Source: IRIN NEWS http://irinews.org