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Burundi: 10,000 refugees flee Burundi amid rising tensions

1st Jul 2015
Burundi: 10,000 refugees flee Burundi amid rising tensions

[Photo: Burundi refugees at the Mahama refugee camp, Rwanda./Photo credit: EU/ECHO/Thomas Conan/Creative Commons]

 

ANKARA (AA) : At least 10,000 refugees fled Burundi over the weekend before the government closed all its borders ahead of Monday’s legislative election, a statement by the United Nations refugee agency, or UNHCR, said Tuesday.

On Monday, Burundians voted to elect 100 members of parliament and 15 councilors for each of the country’s municipalities.

“The Burundian border would now be closed for 48 hours as per usual practice during elections, forcing refugees to use informal border crossing through the forest instead,” the UNHCR statement said.

According to UNCR data, nearly 144,000 Burundians have registered as refugees in neighboring countries since riots and demonstrations erupted in April.

“However, many more are believed to have fled the country, but not registered. Latest official figures show 66,000 in Tanzania, 56,000 in Rwanda, 9,038 in Uganda, 11,500 in Democratic Republic of the Congo, and even 400 in faraway Zambia,” the statement added.

Burundi has been rocked by protest since the ruling National Council for the Defense of Democracy – Forces for the Defense of Democracy named President Pierre Nkurunziza – in power since 2005 – its candidate for the July 15 presidential polls.

The situation took a turn for the worse earlier last May when a group of army generals staged a failed coup attempt against Nkurunziza while he was attending a regional summit in Tanzania.

The opposition says Nkurunziza does not have the right to seek a third term, citing Burundi’s constitution, which limits the number of terms a president can serve to two.

However, Burundi’s Constitutional Court recently ruled that Nkurunziza’s third-term bid would not violate the constitution.

The court ruled that, since he was elected in 2005 by parliament and not by the people, Nkurunziza’s first stint in office should not be counted as a first presidential term per se.

UNHCR Burundi border parliamentary elections legislative election
Author: Hatice Kesgin

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