US-based Cameroonian Empowers Communities of Colour with Latest Innovation

The CEO and Founder of EboniGram Communications, Blessed Efilo Ngoe, has launched a new service, EbonigramPlus, meant to connect and empower black and brown communities around the world.

The innovation, according to him, seeks to give people of African descent a chance to grow their own community online.

He says “EbonigramPlus is designed for a group of people that has been very disenfranchised in the media world – people of Afro descent. So, EbonigramPlus is their own niche; built for people of this group.” Efilo believes that the platform gives this group of people an avenue to interact with the rest of the world.

What is it all about ideally?

EbonigramPlus is a platform for professional and social networking, with a mission to enable black and brown people:

  • Build a strong value-added professional presence on the web
  • Build professional communities through networking
  • Learn new skills and meet people who inspire them
  • Take part in grassroots empowerment and the transformation of interactional spaces
  • Rejoin old friends while growing their community online

Make no mistake! EbonigramPlus, is not solely meant for people with African descent. It is also open for all those who sympathize and empathise with persons of colour.

“They don’t necessarily have to be of African descent. But, as long as they sympathize with, and love Africa, they are welcome to be in EbonigramPlus,” the company’s founder underscored.

Features and how they work

For social interaction and networking, users create profiles, follow friends and mentors, and can be followed back as well. This gives them the exposure they need in their communal space.

More importantly, there are professional avenues in the site, where users can freely market their goods, services and ideas which can boost the black community. Users can create their own stores, forums, groups and pages to promote their businesses.

EbonigramPlus equally has an advertising platform which handlers can use to advertise their various brands.

EbonigramPlus is different, but what makes it so?

Many people of colour use social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp to interact and bond. These platforms have arguably seduced users with their offers. But, with them, comes a price.

EboniGram Communications says it is not out to compete with these giant firms. In fact, it is bringing something much different to the table.

“We are not out to compete with Facebook, LinkedIn and all those guys. We are out to live despite them. Ours is not about making a lot of money, it’s not about making billions of dollars. It’s about giving Africans the opportunity to actually express themselves in a space that is actually theirs,” Blessed Efilo said.

“EbonigramPlus is largely free. Most of the features are free, which means that you can create your market place without necessarily paying for it. But that’s not true in other platforms.”

“You can do so many things with EboniGram without necessarily paying for them. But, there are certain added functions that can help you spread your message maybe to a wider audience, for which you pay a very small fee, compared to Facebook and things like that.”

Most communities of colour are faced with economic challenges. The EboniGram team intimates that it has taken this into consideration, reason why it is making the site affordable for this community.

Meanwhile, management guarantees that it will only permit genuine businesses on the platform, to avoid any fraudulent activity on its site. “This is a platform that cares about the image of Africa…We will be very strict with the kinds of things that are marketed on our platform. We are not going to allow people to take advantage of our platform to exploit the same people we are trying to give a voice.”

Empowering grassroots through education, mentorship and training

Cameroonian-born CEO and founder of EboniGram Communications, Blessed Efilo is an instructor in the University of Colorado, USA. He is passionate about seeing the African continent advance in education.

For this reason, he will use EbonigramPlus to create learning platforms where courses will be taught mostly for free, to help black and brown people develop themselves intellectually and professionally in diverse disciplines. Plans are also underway to bring in professionals from different fields to mentor and train younger black people. This, Efilo believes, will empower the grassroots.

Feel free to explore EbonigramPlus

EbonigramPlus, a division of EboniGram Communications, has been commended by many people. Some have already begun exploring the offers of this latest platform.

If you would like to be part of this community, feel free to visit www.ebonigramplus.com and begin your journey.

Africa: Zimbabwe Slammed By TB Drug Scarcity

The Ministry of Health and Child Care has cautioned over the insufficient Tuberculosis drugs vital for HIV/TB treatment.

The Permanent Secretary of Health and Child Care, Air Commodore Dr Jasper Chimedza in a letter addressed to all Provincial Medical Directors, indicated that the government is facing a shortage of Rifabutin 150mg tablets used in the treatment for TB/HIV co-infected patients.

“The country is currently faced with a shortage of Rifabutin 150mg tablets used in the treatment of Drug sensitive Tuberculosis (DS-TB) among TB/HIV co-infected patients on second line antiretroviral therapy (ART),” he stated.

Dr Chimedza added that the shortages are linked with active pharmaceutical ingredient quality issues at the manufacturer level.

“The next shipment delivery is expected in mid-2021. Based on the current stock levels of the commodity, the country will be stocked out by the end of November 2020,” he lamented.

Tuberculosis is among the top ten killers in the world according to the World Health Organization (WHO). The infectious disease is especially dangerous for people living with HIV and AIDS.

Dr Chimedza recommended clinicians to stop introducing all new patients on Rifabutin based on regimen.

“Clinicians are recommended to initiate patients on a Rifampicin based regimen (2RHZE/2RTRH), substitute Atazanavir\Ritonavir (LPV/r) either give LPV/r twice daily (double the dose) or increase Ritonavir to 400mg (super boosting),”

He also recommended the clinicians to monitor closely for potential harmful effects due to the high dosage.

TB is one of the leading killers of people living with HIV. People who are infected with HIV are 20 – 30 times more likely to develop active TB. The risk of death in co-infected patients is twice that of those infected with only HIV. They are the most likely to suffer from the shortages.

No access to medication may also lead to a weaker immune system making way for other adaptable diseases.

The presence of the Coronavirus pandemic is also a threat to a weak immune system.

Shortage of TB medication poses serious problems for the healthcare sector which is already under-resourced with human capital due to ongoing job action over salaries.

Disney to Layoff 28,000 Employees as Coronavirus Wallops its theme park business

Disney has decided to let go of 28,000 employees across its parks, experiences and consumer products segment.

Disney’s theme parks in Florida, Paris, Shanghai, Japan and Hong Kong have been able to reopen with limited capacity,while both California theme parks have remained shut.

Persistent closures at Disney’s California-based theme parks and limited attendance at its open parks has pushed the company to lay off 28,000 employees across its parks, experiences and consumer products division.

In a memo sent to employees on Tuesday, Josh D’Amaro, head of parks at Disney, explained several “difficult decisions” the company has had to make with the hit of the coronavirus pandemic.

Shares of the company fell less than 2% after the closing bell on Tuesday.

Around 67% of the 28,000 laid off workers were part-time employees, according to word by D’Amaro. The company settled to break down the layoffs by individual park locations.

“As you can imagine, a decision of this magnitude is not easy,” D’Amaro wrote in the memo to employees. “For the last several months, our management team has worked tirelessly to avoid having to separate anyone from the company. We’ve cut expenses, suspended capital projects, furloughed our cast members while still paying benefits, and modified our operations to run as efficiently as possible, however, we simply cannot responsibly stay fully staffed while operating at such limited capacity.”

The parks, experiences and consumer products segment is a very vital part of Disney’s business. Last year, it accounted for 37% of the company’s $69.6 billion in total revenue. 

Disney has been losing money since the outbreak began. In the second quarter, the company reported a $1 billion loss in operating income due to the shutdown of its parks, hotels and cruise lines. In the third quarter, the company reported a steeper loss of $3.5 billion.

D’Amaro and team have been working to urge California state legislators to provide guidelines for reopening parks. Last week, the company provided a media update to highlight the success it has seen at its Florida parks and internationally in Paris, Shanghai and Japan.

The virtual update also showcased the updated safety measures it already has in place. These policies include requiring masks, having sanitation stations widely available, online mobile ordering for meals and cashless pay.

Disney’s coronavirus troubles have been “exacerbated in California by the State’s unwillingness to lift restrictions that would allow Disneyland to reopen,” D’Amaro stated.

Gov. Gavin Newsom outlined a new four-tier reopening framework in late August for easing restrictions on California’s businesses depending on the level of Covid-19 spread in individual counties.

Orange County, which is where Disneyland operates, remains in the “substantial” tier, and theme parks must remain closed, according to the state’s website. Orange County is reporting a local positivity rate, or the percentage of total tests that have positive results, of 3.1% — below the statewide 3.4% rate.

However, the county is reporting roughly 4.4 new Covid-19 cases per 100,000 people daily, preventing it from moving forward with more reopenings. Newsom told reporters during a press briefing at the end of August that state officials were “actively” working with Disneyland and other theme parks in California.

However, the truth is now very glaring.

Over 47 Million Women In Danger – United Nations.

The United Nations has called on member nations to intensify efforts to curb the increasing gap of poverty caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Reports say progress made in recent decades would go in vain  if nothing is done to suppress the poverty situation by the end of 2020.

The humanitarian body says, the coronavirus pandemic will widen the poverty gap between women and men, pushing 47 million more women and girls into impoverished lives by next year.

The report states that, worldwide, more women than men will be made poor by the economic fallout and significant job losses caused by COVID-19, with informal workers worst hit in sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, according to new UN estimates. “The increases in women’s extreme poverty are a stark indictment of deep flaws in our societal and economic structures.” Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, the head of UN Women, said in a statement.

During the pandemic, women have lost their jobs at a faster rate than men, as they are more likely to be employed in the sectors hardest hit by long lockdowns such as retail, restaurants and hotels. 

Women are also more likely to work in the informal economy, typically in jobs as domestic workers and cleaners that often come with little or no healthcare, unemployment benefits or other protections. “We know that women take most of the responsibility for caring for the family; they earn less, save less and hold much less secure jobs,” Mlambo-Ngcuka, added.

The UN’s International Labour Organization (ILO), has revealed that about 70 percent of domestic workers globally had lost their jobs as a result of COVID-19 by June this year. 

Overall, the pandemic will push another 96 million people into extreme poverty by next year, of whom nearly half are women and girls, according to estimates by UN Women and the UN’s Development Programme (UNDP). This will bring the total number of women and girls worldwide living in extreme poverty to 435 million and it is expected this figure will not revert to pre-pandemic levels until 2030

Facebook Does Not Reflect reality?

Mark Zuckerberg is the world’s most powerful unelected person, but its crazy when he misrepresents what is happening on Facebook.

In an interview, Zuckerberg was asked big and delicate questions about his company: Why are people sometimes cruel to one another on Facebook, and why do inflammatory, partisan posts get so much attention?

Zuckerberg said that Americans are angry and divided right now, and that’s why they act that way on Facebook, too.

Zuckerberg and other Facebook executives consistently say that Facebook is a mirror on society. An online gathering that gives a personal printing press to billions of people will inevitably have all the good and the bad of those people.

It’s true but also ridiculously incomplete to say that Facebook reflects reality. Instead, Facebook presents reality filtered through its own prism, and this affects what people think and do.

Facebook regularly rewrites its computer systems to meet the company’s goals; the company might make it more likely that you’ll see a friend’s baby photo than a news article about wildfires. That doesn’t mean that wildfires aren’t real, but it does mean that Facebook is creating a world where the fires are not in the forefront.

Facebook’s ability to shape, not merely reflect, people’s preferences and behavior is also how the company makes money. 

Facebook sells billions of dollars in ads each year because what people see there, and how Facebook chooses to prioritize that information, can influence what people believe and buy.

Facebook knows it has the power to shape what we believe and how we act. That’s why it has restricted wrong information about the coronavirus, and it doesn’t allow people to bully one another online.

Further Proof

An internal team of researchers at Facebook concluded that the social network made people more polarized, The Wall Street Journal reported in May. American society is deeply divided, but Facebook contributes to this too.

So why does Zuckerberg keep saying that Facebook is a mirror of society? Maybe it’s a handy media talking point that is intentionally uncomplicated.

There are no easy fixes to make Facebook or much of the world less contrasting and divided, but it’s dishonest for Zuckerberg to say his company is a bystander rather than a participant in what billions of people on its site believe and how they behave.

Zuckerberg knows, as we all do; the power that Facebook has to revise reality.

Trump Criticized for Allegedly Trash-talking Nelson Mandela

The President of the United States Donald Trump keeps facing massive criticism, after a new book revealed he made unpleasant comments about Nelson Mandela.

US President Donald Trump (Picture: The Zambian Observer)

US President, Donald Trump is facing backlash following derogatory comments attributed to him, against late South African President, Nelson Mandela.

A recent book written by Mr Trump’s former lawyer and “fixer” Michael Cohen, reveals that the president called anti-Apartheid icon, Nelson Mandela “no leader.” Cohen alleges in his book, Disloyal: A Memoir, that Mr Trump denigrated Nelson Mandela, quoting him as saying: “Mandela f—ed the whole country up. Now it’s a s—hole. F— Mandela. He was no leader.”

South Africans fight back

South Africans have not taken this revelation lightly. They have criticized the US leader, for purportedly using such words against the country’s first black president.

Mandela meant a lot to the South African people. The Nobel Peace Prize winner fought for the liberation of South Africa from white domination.

Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa (Picture: BBC)

The African National Congress (ANC) which Mandela once led, had a stern response to Donald Trump in a statement. The party said “all freedom-loving people of the world are appalled by these insults which come from a person who, himself, is not a model of competent leadership”.

“Trump is [the most] divisive, misogynistic and disrespectful person ever to occupy the office of the president,” it added.

The ANC described Mandela as someone who “reached out to the world and sought to bring peace and a just society”.

Meanwhile, the Nelson Mandela Foundation was not any indifferent to this. The foundation censured President Trump’s supposed remarks, in a statement on its website.

“We do not believe that leaders who conduct themselves in the way Mr. Trump does are in a position to offer authoritative commentary on the life and work” of Mandela, the statement read in part.

Trump’s alleged racist remarks

The tell-all book paints Donald Trump as a racist. Mr Trump racially attacked black people, including his predecessor, Barrack Obama, the book claims.

“Tell me one country run by a black person that isn’t a s—hole. They are all complete f—ing toilets,” President Trump is quoted as saying.

Actually, this is not the first time Trump is being accused of racism. In 2018, he allegedly referred to African countries as “s—hole nations”.

White House dismisses Cohen’s claims

The White House says Michael Cohen, who used to be the President’s personal attorney until they both fell out, is lying.

White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said on Saturday: “Michael Cohen is a disgraced felon and disbarred lawyer, who lied to Congress. He has lost all credibility, and it’s unsurprising to see his latest attempt to profit off of lies.”

The new book has damning revelations against President Trump, and it is unclear if it will have any effect on the outcome of the November elections.

However, it remains to be seen whether this will destabilize President Trump’s support base or not, as he seeks reelection.

Less Privileged Enjoy Free Haircuts From Mobile Barber

BY PAUL NJIE

Ekie Walters Ngalle, 24, never dreamt of becoming a barber someday. The idea did not even come as an option, from his list of priorities. Today, many less privileged enjoy free haircuts from his mobile barbing campaigns.

The journey of a humanitarian mobile barber

After studying IT at a local industrial training center, Ekie sold watermelon on the streets in order to survive. But something happened four years ago while on his routine roadside venture. One of his clients introduced him to barbing. This marked the beginning of someone through whose art many less privileged would enjoy free haircuts. His art has since become an inspiration to many.

Since Ekie embraced barbing as an occupation, he developed love for it, he told EboniGram. His barbing experience, however, was not all that rosy. After three years of barbing in a shop in Buea, in the South West region of Cameroon, he quit. This was understandably hard for him; he had to do it anyway.

“I had to leave the [barber] shop because the working conditions were not favourable to me,” Walters said.

If anyone thought this was going to break Walters, they were wrong. For the young man, it was a leeway to explore other avenues. Becoming his own boss was not a bad idea at all, he thought. He had already developed love for barbing, so much so that he had to stay within that zone of occupation.

But how could a then 23 year-old, singlehandedly pay rents for his own barber’s shop? Where would he get money to buy the requisite equipment? Without a doubt, these are genuine questions for anyone hoping to start up a business — big or small.

One day, he thought out of the box and resolved to be his own boss, anyway. He did not need a shop to be a barber, after all. He just needed the skills and his equipment.

Mobile barbing? That seemed like a great idea to Ekie. He could go and meet people in the confines of their homes — or anywhere they were — and shave them upon request.

That was it! Just like that, Ekie Walters became a mobile barber in 2020.

How Ekie’s Mobile Barbing is Impacting Lives

Ekie has succeeded to build his brand. “Walcutz De Baber” seemed like a great fit for what he did and continues to do. A combination of his name and newly found passion.

Cameroon has so many less privileged persons. The economy and internal occurrences such as conflicts, have rendered numerous individuals disadvantaged.

“They are the needy and they need our help,” Ekie said.

How can a barber add meaning to their lives? He wondered. How could the less privileged enjoy free haircuts from his largess? He had a skill, and he resolved to use it to make this group of persons smile. “Barbing for charity” or “humanitarian barbing” was Ekie’s way of telling the less privileged that someone somewhere cared for them.

For four months now, the barber has been to six towns and cities, giving free haircuts to the less privileged, orphans, internally displaced persons (IDPs), and handicapped persons.

The needy persons are usually very unkempt when you see them. That is why I took it upon myself to reach out to them with my skills. So, I do the haircuts for them for free

Ekie Walters

To him, this is the only way he can give back to the community.

On a normal day, Ekie’s services could cost over 5 dollars. But, doing it for free for the less privileged, makes him “feel very fine and happy inside.”

“There’s a lot of joy doing a humanitarian gesture like this,” he said.

Actively meeting the less privileged

© EboniGram: Ekie Walters shaves a child for free in Wotutu, Cameroon

Ekie regularly goes to the streets and orphanages, to do his humanitarian barbing.

In one of the orphanages where he gives free haircuts to the kids — God First Orphanage and Home for the Needy, Wotutu — he is considered more as family.

Since his first visit there, he became fond of the kids. The children love him too. Some of them call him “uncle barber.”

After his haircut, here is what Thomas, a kid at the orphanage, said:

“I feel nice. The hairstyle is quite nice as well…Thank you very much [Uncle Walters].”

This orphanage in Wotutu does not have electricity. Walters has rechargeable shaving machines, and he uses them with or without electricity. This meant a lot to the people at the orphanage.

If he did not have such machines, it would have been stressful for me to pay barbers up at Wotutu or Mile 4, given the distance. It’s risky for the children, and it would have been expensive for me too.

Elive Joan, the Founder of God First Orphanage and Home for the Needy

“He [Walters] does it [shaves] very well. He is doing it with all his heart, and does it carefully, without any payment. So, I really appreciate… I’m very happy because it helps me to cut down cost,” Mrs. Elive continued to reveal.

“I’m so happy for the sacrifice that a young man like him puts in.”

These words are a booster to the young barber who singlehandedly finances his humanitarian efforts. It is not easy for him to do this, but words of appreciation from people like Mrs. Elive Joan, only motivate him to keep going.

“It all depends on my finance. As long as I have money, I will keep doing this,” Ekie said with strong resolve.

Bigger Dreams

The 24 year-old humanitarian hopes to take this far. In a few days, he will begin a national tour, dubbed Walcutz De Barber Charity National Tour.” The aim of this tour is to change lives through haircuts.

“My [general] goal is to train a minimum of 150 less privileged youths and give free haircuts to 1500 less privileged people across the country.”

By training less privileged children how to become barbers, he believes he is giving them hope. He is creating an opportunity for them to gain skills, which might lead to their future employment.

Ekie has huge dreams. Even though finance is a major problem for him, he still fancies creating a barbing academy, sometime in the future, to train many less privileged persons, free of charge, on how to do haircuts. His charity campaign has garnered massive national and international acclaim.

“Most people are proud of what he does”, said one of Ekie’s regular customers.

So many young people in Cameroon are as talented as Walters. Nothing would make him happier, than seeing such persons join him in touching the lives of people who are disadvantaged across communities.

“They should ask themselves: ‘what have they done to the community?’ If some youth can have the kind of initiative and love for the community like I do, it’s going to help the community a lot.”

Ekie Walters

After every free haircut, the kids would often tell Walters, “thank you!” There is some inspiration that comes with that, Ekie told EboniGram.

“It means a lot,” he said. “It means more than the money I charge for haircuts.”

To Walters this might just be a small way of expressing kindness, but to the people he impacts, it is an utterly remarkable gesture — a gesture that puts a smile on the face of three-year-old Jude, at the orphanage.

You can get involved

If you would love to donate to Walters’ Charity or reach out to him, here is how you can get to him:

Email: ekiewalters@gmail.com

Tel: +237 673 594 931

Facebook: Walcutz De Barber

Instagram: Walcutz De Barber

China’s Exports Leap, Defying the Odds

This was supposed to be the year that China’s export machine began to clog. Given Trump administration tariffs on Chinese products, factories folded by the coronavirus crisis and countries forcing companies to shift their logistics elsewhere.

However, China has bounced back flourishing. The country started reopening businesses in late February, after which factories’ exports soared across sectors, reaching their secthe-highest level ever in July.

China’s share of global exports rose close to 20 percent in the April to June quarter of 2020, up from 12.8 percent in 2018 and 13.1 percent last year, according to IHS Markit, a global data firm. 

Main Reason

China depends on low-cost, skilled labor and efficient infrastructure. China’s state-controlled banking system has offered businesses more loans to survive.

Its factories make what people need and want right now: medical gear, home improvement products and consumer electronics.

Contrast in India

The economy deflated by 23.9 percent in the second quarter. It was the most acute fall in decades, as restrictions to prevent the spread of the coronavirus dissolved jobs and businesses. 

That showing is the worst among the world’s top economies. The construction, manufacturing and transit industries were among the most affected. 

Uganda To Fight COVID-19 Through Prayers

President Museveni is determined to see an end to COVID-19 in Uganda [Photo: The Spy]

Uganda’s President, Yoweri Museveni has declared Saturday August 29, a day for national prayers against COVID-19.

He made the declaration in a recent social media post, saying a Ugandan citizen who had a vision from God, inspired him to take the decision.

The President failed to provide any details about who the citizen was, and when he knew about the vision.

“A certain Ugandan came to me and told me that God had told him in a vision that I should organise National Prayers, scientifically organised, for God to deliver us from COVID 19,” he wrote on Facebook.

“I declare the 29th of August 2020, a day of National Prayers and a Public Holiday. Stay in your houses or Compounds and pray.”

Uganda currently has 2,679 Coronavirus cases, and 28 deaths. This has badly affected the East African country.

President Museveni urged Ugandans to use the day for “massive supplication,” so that God could deliver the country from the ravaging virus.

Meanwhile, a group of religious leaders will join the president and first lady at the presidency on Saturday, to pray for the country.

The prayers from the state house will be broadcast live on State TV and radio, for Ugandans to follow.

Can prayers cushion the effects of COVID-19?

The Coronavirus spreads rapidly, and its effects are quite severe. Though some who test positive recover from the virus, a good number of them die from it as well.

So far, medical practitioners use medicine to combat the pandemic. But, can prayers help as well? The answer to this is elusive.

So many countries on the continent have seen religion as a means to face the virus. Countries like Tanzania, Ghana, Zimbabwe, Malawi and South Africa used prayer as a key ingredient against COVID-19.

They each organised days of national prayer over the virus, calling on God to help their countries.

For Christians in these countries, God can help them throughout this global health crisis. They are hopeful that their prayers will bear fruits.

However, the virus is still pervasive across the continent, with severe effects. It remains to be seen what effect prayers will have on the virus which has claimed close to a million lives worldwide.

Africa: Rwanda, Burundi Military Intelligence Heads Meet to Calm Tension

For the first time since 2015, Rwandan and Burundian military officials have met publicly to discuss. This is in a bid to quell the long-term tensions that have affected security, trade and movement along their border.

Delegations of army intelligence officers from both countries met at the Nemba border town Wednesday. Facilitated by Col Leon Mahoungou of the Expanded Joint Verification Mechanism, a regional military framework under the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR).

Relations between Rwanda and Burundi turned sour in 2015 when Rwandan President Paul Kagame blasted his counterpart, Pierre Nkurunziza, for doing little to stop the violence that was sparked by his presidential bid for a third term. Nkurunziza died on June 9, 2020, at the age of 55 and was replaced by Evariste Ndayishimiye.

Movement and trade along the common border of the two countries have been limited since the years prior to 2015.

The meeting follows President Kagame’s first public message to console Burundians on the death of Nkurunziza which was seen as an olive branch to the fresh Ndayishimiye’s government.

The Rwanda Defence Force delegation is led by Brigadier General Vincent Nyakarundi, the head of military intelligence, while his counterpart Col Ernest Musaba leads the Burundi team.

Refugee Problems

The two sides are also expected to discuss Burundi’s refugee situation after both countries accused each other earlier this month of exploiting refugees as political pawns.

On Thursday, a range of 500 and 700 Burundian refugees in Rwanda are expected to return home.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) told The EastAfrican that majority of the returning refugees are those who issued a petition pleading with President Ndayishimiye to facilitate their safe return.

“In the coming weeks we might observe a growing number of Burundian refugees who voluntarily express the desire to return home,” Elise Villechalane, the UNHCR Rwanda External Relations Officer told The EastAfrican.

Rwanda hosts about 320,000 Burundian refugees as of May 31. This includes those who fled since April 2015, as well as some 37,000 other Burundian refugees who sought asylum prior to April 2015, according to UNHCR figures.

Gunmen attacks

Tensions between the two countries heightened in June, after about 100 gunmen from Burundi attacked a Rwanda Defense Force position in the south, a kilometre inside Rwandan territory.

The Rwandan military said it sought answers from Burundi after four of the unidentified gunmen were killed and the rest retreated to Burundi. The military weapons captured, they said, were branded to belong to the Burundian army.

Burundi in her response said she “cannot be a sanctuary” for armed elements disturbing the security of neighbouring countries.

The meeting between the intelligence officials now serves as an olive branch and as a symbol of intentions by both countries to stop the tensions. Authorities stated a joint statement would be released after the talks.