A RESPONSE TO 'REFUGEES STRUGGLING TO STAY IN TANZANIA?'
The situation in Mtabila refugee camp is very complicated. As a former worker of the camp, I understand that there are some who have genuine reasons for hesitating to go back to their country--most of those in this category are those who were born in Congo after their parents fled Burundi during the 1970s tribal conflicts, and when the conflicts emerged in Congo in 1996 they found themselves in Tanzania(Mtabila). Thus, these people who have been outside burundi for more than 30 years now find it difficult going back as their former land/farms have new occupants now and any effort to force them to leave the lans is likely to led to new conflicts. For those who were born in congo and Tanzania, some of them dont even know their original places in Burundi as some have lost both parents who would have led them--they therefore see themselves more Tanzanians and Congorese than Burundians.
The second categoty consists of those who hesitate to go back home because of the easy and free life they lead in the camp. I think this situation can be best explained by economists--if needs can be acquired without working many people will be willing to stay iddle without working(substituting work for staying iddle ). I remember there were some who were even inviting their relatives from Burundi to go and live in the camp.
The third category consist of those who in one way or another participated in the killings of 1994--these are the politicians and their relatives. They are not willing to go back to Burundi for fearing that their formers victims(or victim's relatives) might plan to get revenge.
Finally, I also believe that not all Tanzanians are happy with the plans to close the refugee camps. Besides the negative effects that have been associated with the presence of Refugee camps in Kigoma region, there are also a number of benefits--particularly economic benefits. The presence of Refugee camp in the region has attracted many international and local NGO which provides employement to many Tanzanians-educated and non-educated. Many families in Kigoma region have benefited from refugee projects either directly or indirectly. Given this situation, the closure of refugee camps has come to mean reduced employment and rmaney circulation in the region--this is what makes the decision to close Mtabila refugee camp to be received with mixed feelings.