AT LEAST seven people have died and 66 others have been wounded in nearly a week of clashes between police and protesters in the central African nation of Burundi.
Burundian Red Cross spokesman Alexis Manirakiza said 29 people were hurt in Thursday’s clashes, bringing the overall number of wounded since the violence began on Sunday to 66.
Sporadic clashes continued in parts of the capital Bujumbura on Friday, witnesses said, while hundreds of university students — whose student lodgings have been closed by the government — have been camping outside the US embassy, saying they want protection.
The unrest broke out after the ruling CNDD-FDD party designated President Pierre Nkurunziza as its candidate in the next presidential election, which is due to be held on June 26.
Opposition figures and rights groups say that Mr Nkurunziza’s attempt to stand for a third consecutive term violates the constitution as well as a peace deal that ended a civil war in 2006.
That conflict, fought between ethnic Hutu and Tutsi, resulted in the deaths of at least 300,000 people.
“The protest has been violently repressed by the police, the Imbonerakure — the youth wing of the CNDD-FDD — and Rwandan terrorists from the Hutu rebel group Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).
“Hundreds of people have been arrested as confirmed by the correspondent of Radio France International Sonia Rolley,” he said. “Meanwhile, hundreds of Burundian Tutsi are crossing the Nyansa lake, on the border with Tanzania, and the Ruhwa and Ruzizi rivers, on the border with Rwanda and Ruzizi, fearing that a genocide against them could occur. They are sheltering in Tanzania, in southern Rwanda and the Congo.”
It is believed around 20,000 people have crossed the border amid the recent conflict and are now in Rwanda.
Medical sources said many of those hurt in the clashes suffered gunshot wounds, allegedly at the hands of police who fired into crowds with live ammunition.
Red Cross and medical sources said three people were killed on the first day of protests, and three later that night in an alleged attack by ruling party militia forces.
A soldier was also shot dead on Thursday when an intelligence officer opened fire near a barricade erected by protesters.