UN says 8,000 people flee Burundi as poll tensions mount
More than 8,000 Burundians have fled in the past two weeks to Rwanda and DR Congo following mounting tensions in the central African country ahead of a key vote, the UN said Friday.
The UN refugee agency said the main reasons according to reports from the ground were the disappearance of people associated with the opposition and alleged forced recruitment by the pro-government militia Imbonerakure, the youth wing of the ruling CNDD-FDD party.
"In all, more than 8,000 Burundians have sought refuge in these two countries in the past two weeks, 7,099 in Rwanda and a smaller number in the Democratic Republic of Congo," UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards told reporters in Geneva.
Edwards said more than 60 percent of the arrivals in Rwanda were children. The refugees came from the northern Burundian province of Kirundo.
Burundi, which emerged in 2006 from a brutal 13-year civil war, holds general elections in May to elect lawmakers before a presidential poll in June.
Tensions have risen over incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid to seek a third term in office, despite the constitution stating a president can only be elected twice.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees expressed concern that the numbers of refugees could swell "with more political tension rising and more acts of violence being reported."
It said in Rwanda the refugees were housed in two centres in the southern districts of Nyanza and Bugesera adding that 1,060 Burundian asylum seekers had arrived this month in DR Congo's South Kivu province in the east of the vast country.
© 2015 AFP