Thousands flee Burundi amid pre-election violence

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Voting during the 2005 legislative elections in Cibitoke, Burundi. Photo: UN Photo/Martine Perret

Pre-election violence in Burundi has prompted thousands of people to flee into neighbouring Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo, the UN said Friday.

United Nations refugee agency UNHCR said that mainly women and children had left the country in the run-up to voting.

It said that in the last two weeks more than 8,000 Burundians have left the country amid reports of harassment, intimidation and alleged forced recruitment by the youth wing of Burundi's ruling party.

Daniel Johnson has more.

The UN refugee agency said that those fleeing Burundi spoke of harassment amid increasing violence as the elections approach, beginning in May.

And as tensions continue to rise between government and opposition supporters, the fear is that many more people will become refugees.

Here's UN spokesperson Adrian Edwards:

"Mounting violence and insecurity are being cited as the reasons for flight; the Burundians have reported increased harassment and disappearance of family members associated with the political opposition."

The asylum-seekers are now being hosted in two reception centers in southern Rwanda.

Most of the arrivals in Rwanda have come from Kirundo province in Burundi's north and more than 60 per cent are children.

Edwards said there were more than 100 pregnant women among the new arrivals and that two have given birth.

Many people fled Burundi at night, on foot and have few belongings and are in need of clothing, which UNHCR plans to distribute next week.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations

Duration: 1'02"



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