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Burundi: Over 20,000 flee to Rwanda following mass protests


SomaNet News Archive

(By Estera Popowska)

The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR has confirmed that  some 21,000 people have fled from Burundi into Rwanda following political protests, UN Radio said Tuesday.

As demonstrations entered a second day on Monday against a bid by the Burundian president to cling to power for a third term, at least 320 people had been arrested in Burundi , a senior police official said. The UN has warned that an attempt to seek a third term in the June presidential election is unconstitutional.

According to sources, a leading dissident was arrested while authorities shut down the main independent radio station on Monday as they battled a second day of demonstrations.

AFP reported that Burundian army was also deployed around the capital Bujumbura, after the Red Cross said two people were shot dead in clashes with police in the capital Bujumbura on Sunday. A third person died from their wounds and two more were killed in alleged overnight attacks by ruling party militia.

Demonstrations reportedly erupted on Sunday after the ruling CNDD-FDD party, which has been accused of intimidating opponents, designated President Pierre Nkurunziza its candidate in the June 26 presidential election.

The Burundian  president, a former rebel leader and born-again Christian, has been in power since 2005. Opposition figures and rights groups say his attempt to stay put goes against the constitution as well as the peace deal that ended a civil war in 2006.

Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of people were killed in the 13-year conflict, and there are fears the upsurge in political tensions could plunge the country back into violence.

At least 15,000 Burundians have fled the country to neighbouring Rwanda in recent weeks, according to the UN's refugee agency, which has warned that those numbers could rise.

UN rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein warned recently the country was at a “crossroads” between a fair vote and a route back to its “horrendously violent past” (AFP/UN Radio)