Tanzania: holding the burden of Burundi, Rwanda

By January 18, 2017

Tanzania (MNN) — Relations between Rwanda and Burundi are at an all-time low.

Rwanda says it wants to stay away from the crisis across the border, but Burundi says they’re meddling.  Burundi will only come to the table for talks if all countries hosting opposition members fighting the government get the soldiers out.

(Photo courtesy Tent Schools International)

(Photo courtesy of Tent Schools International, Tanzania)

Tent Schools International’s (TSI) Dale Dieleman says, “This is actually what some have called the ‘second civil war’ phase.  They had a situation earlier that was escalating to the point of another Rwanda.  But then they had some elections and some of those elections were contested, so now, it’s sort of back to the beginning.”

So far, this cycle has been stymieing efforts to resolve the political crisis that began two years ago.  Dieleman explains, “It’s generally ethnically-based; there’s been increasing instability there.  Currently in the camps, it’s split between Congolese, but mostly Burundian refugees in Tanzania. In three camps, there are about 275,000.”

Since the conflict began, a Tent Schools International contact in Tanzania has been helping 30 young Burundian women with computer skills, secondary and HIV/AIDS education, and Bible instruction.  They have also cared for those who have become pregnant, coming alongside them with resources and childcare so their education can continue.

As far as refugees go, “That number is expected to increase this year in 2017 to over 534,000.  According to some statistics from Doctors Without Borders, that number is expected to increase to 10,000 arrivals each month”, he says, making note that the influx of families is stretching the resources of the Tanzanian government then.  Additional people means they’re now looking to expand to a fourth camp.

(Photo courtesy Tent Schools International)

(Photo courtesy of Tent Schools International)

With the latest influx of families out of Burundi, the organization is now shifting its focus to younger children, both boys and girls.  Their goal is to establish tent schools in four camps within the region as soon as possible.  Dieleman says another need emerged recently.  “We’ve been praying with our partners on this, but we’ve really come to this concept of ‘let’s do something beyond just basic education to help people prepare, with some job skills, prepare for life following that [displacement].’”

Life in a camp is drudgery.  It’s mostly a waiting game…where days turn into months, and months can turn into years.  “While they are there in these camps, there’s an opportunity to do something,” and their partner wanted to capitalize on that time by training for the future.  “They wanted to actually help the people there to gain some skills that would prepare them for jobs in the digital age when their refugee situation would be alleviated.”

Their partner asked if “‘…there’s a way that you can send us some computers, we’d be able to set up a computer training center just outside the area where the camps are.’”

TSI started talks with the non-profit Comprenew in Grand Rapids, MI., an organization whose mission it is to protect people and the environment from unwanted electronics by either extending their life-cycle or recycling…they also provide vocational training.

Dieleman clarifies, “With the resources that Comprenew has, in terms of recycled and refurbished laptops, we are now going to furnish them (Tanzanian partners) with the hardware that they are requesting.  It’s a double training because this ministry is using professional IT trainers in their own country.”

The ministry has certain students in mind and classes are being formed, he adds.  “They’re also bringing the Word of God.  During the time they are doing the training, they’re going to bring a Bible study, but along with that, these trainings in digital skills.”

A concluding thought on the type of materials covered in this program launch in Tanzania.  Primarily, this is a ministry program.  Subsequently, says Dieleman, it’s also a call to action.

“We just pray that the situation can settle down so that people, first of all, won’t have to leave their country.  Secondly, for those that are in the camps, that they do not despair — that they really understand God is there with them and for them and will not abandon them.”

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