More than 105,000 have fled Burundi, UN refugee agency says

More than 105,000 people have fled Burundi to Tanzania, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, following an attempted coup and protests, the UN refugee agency said on Friday.


Protesters carry a Burundi flag during a protest against President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to run for a third term in Bujumbura, Burundi May 13, 2015. Photo/REUTERS

Neighbouring Tanzania has received 70,187 Burundians, Rwanda 26,300 and 9,183 are in the province of South Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the UNHCR said.

Tanzanian authorities are reporting that more than 50,000 Burundians are living rough on shore of Lake Tanganyika, “possibly even more”, UNHCR spokeswoman Karin de Gruijl told a news briefing in Geneva.

A civil society group in Burundi which had a prominent role in protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza called on Friday for rallies to continue, the movement’s deputy said, adding his group had nothing to do with a failed coup attempt.

“Protests to reject the third term bid for Nkurunziza will continue,” said Gordien Niyungeko, deputy head of Focode, one of the 300 civil society groups that backed protests.

“Our movement had nothing to do with the attempted coup or the failed coup.”

A group of young men in the Cibitoke suburb of Bujumbura, an area where there were frequent rallies in past weeks, said they had been warned by police men that they would be treated as rebels and shot at if they demonstrated.

A man was seen lying dead in a street in Bujumbura on Friday and people in the area which has been a hotbed for protests against Nkurunziza said police had shot him, a Reuters witness said.

“I saw him with a big hole in his head,” said Reuters photographer Goran Tomasevic, adding that he was told by those in the Butarere area that police had shot him and wounded two others. There was no immediate police comment.

Young men in another district of Bujumbura had earlier said police had warned them that they would be shot if they launched protests against Nkurunziza, who opponents say is violating the constitution by running for a third term.

Meanwhile, the US Embassy in Burundi says non-emergency personnel and the dependents of its staff are to leave the country, a spokeswoman said.

The embassy will be closed on Friday, and the US State Department has not yet decided if it will reopen next week, she said.

South Africa condemned the coup attempt to seize power through unconstitutional means, the Minister of International Relations Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said on Friday.

Nkoana-Mashabane added that South Africa would lend its support to efforts of the East African Community to resolve the conflict in Burundi.


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