Burundi Crisis Drives 300,000 into Asylum -UNHCR Top story

2279 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
Most of these have fled from Muyinga, Makamba, Cankuzo, Kirundo and Ruyigi provinces in search of asylum and international protection. The crisis in Burundi was sparked off by the announcement by President Pierre Nkurunziza, of his intention to run for president, for a third time in office.

The number of people fleeing violence, threats, extrajudicial killings, abduction, torture and persecution in Burundi has passed the 300,000 mark, over a year after a political crisis erupted in April last year.

Most of these have fled from Muyinga, Makamba, Cankuzo, Kirundo and Ruyigi provinces - in search of asylum and international protection. The crisis in Burundi was sparked off by the announcement by President Pierre Nkurunziza, of his intention to run for president, for a third time in office.

The declaration set off protests and a failed coup before he won a much criticized election to stay in power. A report released by the United Nations this week documented 564 summary killings in Burundi from April 2015 to the end of August. The report was a result of an inquiry that began in December 2015.

The investigators found that thousands of people had been tortured, countless women had been subjected to sexual violence, including mutilations; hundreds of people had disappeared and thousands of others were seeking refuge in other countries.

Although departure numbers have generally not been as high as in 2015, there has been a constant flow this year, including more than 20,000 in July and August, according to a report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees-UNHCR.

This number, the report adds, is expected to continue rising in the remaining months of this year.

Charlie Yaxley, the spokesperson of UNHCR in Kampala however fears that neighboring countries like Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, will struggle to continue providing adequate shelter, protection and life-saving services.

He adds that the reception capacities of the host countries are severely overstretched and conditions remain dire for many refugees, most of whom are women and children.

At the end of August, Uganda was hosting 41,938 refugees from Burundi, 13,298 of whom have arrived this year. A steady influx of between 1,000 and 3,000 people have been arriving each month. They are hosted in Nakivale settlement, with smaller numbers in Kampala, Kyaka and Oruchinga.

But the country is becoming increasingly stretched in the face of growing needs in areas of health, education and water distribution. The report observes that more health clinics are needed so that people do not have to walk long distances to access care or rely on mobile clinics.

It adds that pipelines need to be laid to distribute water in refugee settlements and cut costs of trucking in potable water. Schools and classrooms are also needed urgently as well as scholastic materials.

Tanzania currently hosts 163,084 Burundian refugees, the largest number in the region. Rwanda is home to more than 81,000 Burundian refugees, DRC is hosting over 30,000, while another 1,700 have been registered in Zambia.

"These worrying trends will persist as long as a solution to the political crisis remains elusive, with far-reaching humanitarian consequences in Burundi and the region," Yaxley adds in a statement issued this afternoon.

 

About the author

Sylvia Nankya
Sylvia is an Editor and Media Trainer with Uganda Radio Network. She has been a URN staff member since 2013. Sylvia has previously worked as a reporter and news anchor with Radio One (2001-2009) and with Vision Group (2009-2011). Six of her active years in Journalism were spent covering the Parliament of Uganda.

Over the past few years, Sylvia has worked to promote the positive development of societies recovering from conflict through training journalists on choices of stories, how they report issues and use of appropriate language in covering conflict and post-conflict situations.

She is an Alumni of RNTC- Holland, Les Aspin Centre for Government at Marquette University-WI, USA and a Community Solutions Fellow.