Snapshot: ‘Mathieu in Burundi’ (2013), by Chris de Bode

‘I found my country had changed and my neighbours had moved on to my land,’ says the 80-year-old who lived in Tanzania for 37 years
© Chris de Bode/Panos/IRC/EU-ECHO

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For 12 years from 1993 there was civil war in Burundi and, during that time, more than 300,000 people died while a further 1m fled their homes. In 1972, during an earlier war, many more had gone to Tanzania, and have been living there in exile for decades.

However, now, though 200,000 Burundians were given Tanzanian citizenship, many others are returning home. Going back after decades in exile is a difficult process, and it’s common to find that family homes and farms have been occupied. Mathieu, 80 (pictured), lived in Tanzania for 37 years. Back in Burundi, he says, “I found my country had changed and my neighbours had moved on to my land. About two years ago, I was attacked. I was coming back from the toilets outside at night when they started hitting me with a machete. It’s because of the land issue that they attacked me. I spent a year in hospital.”

This year’s FT appeal partner charity, the International Rescue Committee, is a global humanitarian organisation working in Tanzania and Burundi to protect refugee families. Its staff help Burundians to resettle safely, as well as providing supplies and training as they establish new lives and livelihoods in their homeland.

Read about IRC’s work worldwide, and donate at ft.com/seasonalappeal. Donations will be matched by the UK government, so their value is doubled

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