Burundi police fire in air in refugee stand-off

840
Police in Burundi fired in the air today to stop a group of ethnic Tutsi refugees returning to volatile DRC and some people may have been wounded, witnesses said.
About 2300 Banyamulenge refugees have refused to move to a new camp in eastern Burundi, preferring to walk across the border back to DRC’s lawless South Kivu province.
Yesterday, police and soldiers blocked the refugees’ path, and then fired in the air today to stop the group crossing.
Witnesses said the refugees fled in all directions. Police and government officials could not immediately be reached for comment.
“We’re determined to go back home. No one can stop us,” one of the refugees, Fidele Manyegezi, told Reuters by telephone.
Yesterday, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said it had cautioned the Gihinga camp group against returning home.
“Due to the ongoing military operations in their areas of origin, UNHCR has urged the refugees not to go back for the moment,” it said in a statement.
Given the security conditions, it said it had underlined that “neither the (Burundi) government authorities nor UNHCR would be in a position to guarantee their safety on return or to assist them in any other way”.
UNHCR wants the refugees to move east to Bwagiriza camp. Along with the tiny country’s government, it is helping some 30 000 mostly Congolese refugees at three camps in Burundi.
More than 5 million people have died since 1998 as a result of the conflict in DRC between various rebel groups and armies from neighbouring countries.



Pic: Burundi refugees