Burundi Families Reconnecting after Years of Separation

Video by the International Committee of the Red Cross
Story by Jon Dillon, National Headquarters, Outreach and Casework Associate

 In the above video, a volunteer with the Burundi Red Cross delivers Red Cross Messages by bicycle to those who have been separated from their family by conflict.  Since its independence from Belgium in 1962, the nation of Burundi has witnessed many years of violence, including two genocides, according to the International Commission of Inquiry for Burundi.  The most recent genocide in 1993 resulted in hundreds of thousands of civilians seeking refuge in neighboring countries, mostly Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Since the end of the civil war in 2005, the nation has seen a gradual return to peace and has encouraged its refugees to return home and commence a national reconciliation process where those affected by the conflict can air grievances and fears in an attempt to ease communal tensions.  In 2012, despite fear of returning home because of political beliefs differing from those of the ruling party, the government of Tanzania closed the Mtabila refugee camp which housed thousands of Burundi refugees. While many of the refugees repatriated, others have sought refugee elsewhere including Kenya, Uganda, and other third countries of resettlement via the UNHCR. Throughout the instances of fleeing violence, seeking refuge, and being repatriated, the chance of separation is high, leaving many Burundi family connections splintered.

The confusion of conflict and the often poor communications infrastructure of refugee camps can separate families and leave them without a way to reconnect for months, years, possibly even decades. With the help of National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies along with the International Committee of the Red Cross, family members can reconnect to one another through their Tracing and Red Cross Message services. Staff and volunteers, like the one seen in the video, work to locate family members in order to re-establish communication and restore the peace of mind that comes with knowing the whereabouts and state-of-being of loved ones. It is the hope of the organization that through this work, all families links severed by the destruction and chaos of conflict, disaster, and migration will be restored.

For more information on Burundi and its refugees, please visit:

The United Nations High Commission for Refugees Burundi Profile

Pambazuka News on Burundi Refugees

AllAfrica News on Burundi Refugees

Challenges for Truth and Reconciliation in Burundi