Everyone Supports Returnees 'Twunganire Abahungutse' in Burundi
Twunganire Abahungutse (TA) – everyone supports returnees – is a project with partner ACPDH to help some of the thousands of families who have returned to their homeland, Burundi after having been refugees for many years in neighbouring countries. This is a three year project with support from The Baring Foundation to provide practical and legal support and to continue advocating with the authorities to reinstate returnees and internally displaced people's rights to land, homes and livelihoods.
A dedicated TA project team began identifying the most vulnerable of returnee and IDP families in Mutimbuzi commune and explored how best to support these families’ sustainable reintegration within the community. The team has been consistently advocating with government agencies and ministries to make sure that the plight of returnees and IDPs here in Mutimbuzi and in Rumonge commune will not slip further off the government’s agenda.
The formal meetings and collaboration with the Commission Nationale de Terres et Autres Biens (CNTB) – the national commission of land and other properties and ministries (of National Solidarity, Education, Public and Security), National Independent Commission of Human Rights, UNDP, and UNICEF have enabled ACPDH to work directly with government duty-bearers responsible to raise their attention to the terrible conditions of returnees and IDPs living in Mutimbuzi commune and at the Gahore site in Rumonge. Field visits to Rumonge and subsequent ACPDH interventions with the local authorities have already resulted in rehousing for at least 50 families and metal sheets for roofing promised months earlier have also materialised. The CNTB is currently overwhelmed with over 200,000 cases relating to lost, stolen or misappropriated land and property.
In Gatumba zone, the most vulnerable 50 families were selected for training and given materials to start their businesses and access to land to grow food. Of these 25 are engaged in cultivation, 17 are artisans or providing services such as laundry, 6 are doing repairs or mechanics and 2 families were provided materials to start trading.
One of the bigger challenges is that ACPDH is working in the context of extreme poverty not only among returnees and IDPs but among the general population, and so is having to deal with many demands from the community.
Legal advice, human rights
Returnees and IDPs have been subject to extreme hardships and abuse and they turn to ACPDH for help. Each day people come to the ACPDH office to lodge serious cases such as rapes and land grabs, domestic violence but also for help for medicines and fares to go to hospital. The ACPDH team records and follows up each case but their resources are limited. The team has found a huge number of returnee children without birth certificates as they had never been registered or documents were lost. Working with Mutimbuzi commune administration ACPDH will process birth certificates for 1240 children which then will entitle them to school enrolment and medical help. The project has already enabled 114 children from very poor returnee and IDP families to go to school by providing school materials and uniforms.
As a human rights organisation one big challenge is to deal with the impunity and ignorance of law relating to violence and to human rights abuses. ACPDH is working strategically by targeting advocacy activities, and consistently promoting the needs and rights of IDPs and returnees with key officials in government.
In the second and third year of the TA project, ACPDH will help another 100 families with direct practical and livelihood support, while continuing to support the beneficiary families and their enterprises. At the local level ACPDH has joined Mutimbuzi’s Comite Mixte de Securite (commune based peace and security committee) to ensure that all issues relating to returnees and IDPs are included in the committee’s agenda. They will continue to provide legal advice and referrals and above all ACPDH will intensify their national advocacy work for returnees and IDP rights with government.
Twunganire Abahungutse project has been short-listed as a finalist for the 2015 Ockenden International Prize.
Main Photo: Pascaline and her children at the Gahore site for returnees in Rumonge