EAC ministers meet on Burundi crisis


Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission
 The EAST African Community (EAC) ministers are today expected to meet in the Ugandan capital, Kampala to re-start Burundi mediation peace talks.
The violence was triggered by incumbent president Pierre Nkurunziza’s April decision to run for a controversial third term. With the announcement came widespread protests and a failed military coup and the violence which had seen at least 400 people killed and over 120,000 Burundians flee to Tanzania.
 
The African Union said it would deploy peace keeping force but now, President John Magufuli, the regional Chairman, has opposed deployment of the African Prevention and Protection Mission and instead tasked his Foreign Affairs, Regional, East African and International Cooperation Minister Dr Augustine Mahiga to revive the peace talks.
 
According to a statement released by the Department of Communications in the Ministry, the emergency meeting is scheduled to kick start today in Uganda.
 
Already President Magufuli has at different times met with various groups from Burundi including the embattled president Nkurunziza.
 
At a recent meeting in Dar es Salaam with Nkurunziza’s Special envoy and President of the Senate Reverien Ndikuriyo, President Magufuli urged for Burundi to open doors for peace talks.
 
On his part, Dr Mahiga, the seconds the president with a view that solution to the Burundi crisis can be reached through diplomatic peace talks and he has so far met with Crispus Kiyonga, Minister in Charge of Defense in Uganda, UN Secretary General advisor on Burundi Jamal Benomar and the President Nkurunziza on Burundi crisis.
 
The Minister categorically said Tanzania has three chief roles to play in the crisis, facilitate Kampala talks, assess the situation on ground and speak to AU to hold on its decision to deploy the peace keeping mission.
 
Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the Chairperson of the African Union Commission, has reportedly written to President Nkurunziza urging to accept the proposed deployment of peacekeeping troops.
 
 
In October,  this year the  UNHCR started the relocation of 50,000 Burundian refugees to two camps in North West Tanzania, which the government had reopened to ease the suffering of tens of thousands of people in the crowded Nyarugusu camp.
 
Following lengthy negotiations, including a meeting between High Commissioner Guterres and former Tanzania's President Jakaya Kikwete in Geneva, the UNHCR received permission from the government to use three former refugee camps – Nduta, Mtendeli and Karago – to help decongest Nyarugusu. Nyarugusu currently accommodates more than 160,000 Burundian and Congolese refugees, and is one of the largest and most overcrowded refugee camps in the world.
 
Under the relocation plan UNHCR prepared with its UN and NGO partners, some 50,000 Burundian refugees were expected to be moved this year from Nyarugusu to Nduta and Mtendeli camps. Despite current challenges to prepare the third camp, Karago, in particular because of a lack of water, that camp is expected to open next year, further easing the pressure on Nyarugusu.
 
Nduta has good water sources while Mtendeli has sufficient water to receive 15,000 refugees with immediate effect. A reception centre has already been built in Nduta camp in addition to four reception villages with the capacity to accommodate up to 5,000 refugees. Furthermore, UNHCR is renovating police posts in both camps and has identified a building to be used as an office for staff. Demarcation of reception villages in Mtendeli has been completed and construction of shelters and other infrastructure is underway.
 
Our camp planning and logistics experts have developed a detailed relocation plan, including the transportation of the Burundian refugees by road. Under the first phase, UNHCR will prioritize new arrivals and the most vulnerable refugees, including those living in flood-prone areas of Nyarugusu as well as refugee incentive workers before onset of the rainy season. New arrivals will be transported daily to the new camps with others three times a week in convoys of 1,000 people each. Convoys will be accompanied by at least one ambulance, two vehicles for refugees with specific needs and two police escorts.
 
Meanwhile, urgent work is required at Nyarugusu. Strong winds have damaged several mass shelters exacerbating the already dire living conditions. 
 
Refugees also need to be relocated to higher ground from some areas which are flood prone. The recent spike of arrivals from Burundi into Tanzania has seen Nyarugusu camp grow exponentially, adding more than 100,000 Burundian refugees to the existing camp population of some 60,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo.
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