Registration of Burundi refugees dating from 1972 positive step

31Dec 2017
Editor
Guardian On Sunday
Registration of Burundi refugees dating from 1972 positive step

MOVES are being implemented to register all remaining Burundi refugees who arrived in the country in the wave of the 1972 dislocations arising from ravages from successive military coups in that country from 1965, where from 1966 to 19786,

Tutsi army officer Michel Micombero ruled the country as the monarchy of King Mwambutsa IV and then his teenaged successor Ntare V collapsed.

Burundi has had a spate of military regimes and even the current civilian authorities arose from militias as is the case in Rwanda and Uganda, while the latter has reached a higher level of civilianization of the regime. Others are much slower, in sum.

What was a bit surprising to those who heard that announcement was that 45 years had passed from the time, the refugees entered to the present, where undoubtedly the majority will have been born in the country and their parents came from Burundi.

Were it in foreign countries (Africa usually not the case) those born in the country would be recognized at birth as citizens, but African constitutions are patriarchal, tied to the heritage of one's father and not own heritage, as to the place of birth of a person determining entitlement to citizenship.

Whether this rule about father's heritage is all there is to it is a different matter in that question.

Part of the problem is the slow industrialization since independence, since a rapidly industrializing country more easily admits labor from nearby countries, especially when it has some skills to offer.

A predominantly agricultural economy can't absorb refugees because that needs alienating land for their upkeep, and when the technology applicable is wood fuel, chances of environmental damage will rise, and instead of seeing the problem in economic systems, people shall see an added burden of the refugee population.

Still many who applied for citizenship were naturalized, and this exercise may be seeking to draw a line under that category.

While some mobile (internet) data suggests that the number of refugees who entered the country in the wake of Burundi massacres of 1972 was about 218,000 and it is unclear how many were born in the country since then, officials of the United Nations High Commission for Refugees is seeking registration of around 72,000 of more than 18 years of age.

Even without the proper standing be clarified, it is evident that this cohort of Burundi refugees have nearly nowhere to return to - and that is always problematic unless the period of exile was brief and shortlived. Being away for 30, 40 years and beyond is virtually irreparable.

The working relationship between the UNHCR and the government on that question seems reasonably harmonious, as steps announced by the government are mostly attributed to the UN commission among media chroniclers on internet.

While the year-long appeal to Burundi refugees to return once a semblance of peace is demonstrable, those who have been in the country for three decades pose a different sort of challenge, of accepting that such people have, by virtue of having stayed for so long in the country.

For those above 18 born here naturalisation is a clear prospect, taking too long for that to happen, but the procedure of applying for permanent residence and citizenship must be followed, and that aspect also end amicably.

Closing files for various batches of refugees lightens UN tasks. It can be done, play your part, and in these days of greater industrial dynamics,, they should acclimatize a little more easily than it was earlier.