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Thousands of displaced need assistance

[Burundi] A Burundian girl makes maizemeal porridge in Nyakimonomono way station, in Kibondo District, northwestern Tanzania. [Date picture taken: March 2006]
Thousands displaced by recent fighting need food aid, say authorities (Jocelyne Sambira/IRIN)

About 1,400 families (8,400 people) displaced in Musigati commune in the northwestern province of Bubanza, following fighting between government forces and the Forces Nationales de Libération (FNL), desperately need help, according to local officials.

Laurent Kagamba, adviser to the Musigati administrator, said that since the simultaneous attacks on three military positions on 28 December and another on 9 January in the same commune, residents had fled their homes. Some sought refuge in Musigati parish, others at Musigati and Kabere trade centres, as well as Busiga coffee factory, he said.

The internally displaced (IDPs) have not yet received any assistance. “They need food aid, blankets - the region is very cold - as well as cooking utensils, as all their properties have been looted. Even if it was time for the harvest of beans and maize, they cannot access them,” Kagamba said.

The governor of Bubanza, Pascal Nyabenda, said the lack of food aid had forced some IDPs to return home during the day to search for food, despite the insecurity.

However, many of them, especially those living on the border with the Kibira forest reserve, considered as the FNL combatants’ hideout, could not move at all as FNL forces roamed the area during the day to steal crops or loot houses.

The director in charge of humanitarian aid at the Ministry of National Solidarity, Repatriation, National Reconstruction, Human Rights and Gender, Godefroid Nyawakira, says the insecurity concerns were impeding delivery of aid to the IDPs. “The assistance is in stock and can be distributed at any time if the security conditions in the area improve.”

Nyawakira said the department had beans, maize floor, blankets, roof sheeting and some household utensils ready.

However, even before aid can be distributed, the ministry will have to assess needs as there are no accurate figures for how many have been affected.

Bernard Ntwari, assistant information officer at the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, told IRIN that the “agency is consulting other humanitarian actors for an initial assessment of the situation” in Bubanza.

Ntwari added that the UNHCR is, however, concerned with the security situation in the province.

The FNL, the last rebel movement still active in Burundi, has resumed fighting government forces, especially in the provinces of Bujumbura Rural and Bubanza, where it is most active.

Though the movement signed a ceasefire accord with the government in September 2006, it has not been fully implemented. The joint verification and monitoring mechanism, which oversees its implementation, suspended activities in July 2007 after the FNL delegates walked out of talks over security concerns. They have since been accusing the facilitator, South African safety minister Charles Nqakula, of bias.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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