Thousands flee Burundi into Tanzania, UN refugee agency reports

18 October 2002

Thousands of refugees from eastern Burundi have fled into neighbouring Tanzania amid growing concerns about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Great Lakes region, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today.

Thousands of refugees from eastern Burundi have fled into neighbouring Tanzania amid growing concerns about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Great Lakes region, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said today.

More than 5,000 Burundian refugees had arrived in Tanzania's Ngara Province since Monday, a spokesman for the agency said, making up 65 per cent of all the new Burundian arrivals in Tanzania this year, which now stand at 17,500. About 3,700 refugees are awaiting transportation at UNHCR's 400-capacity transit centre at the border town of Mbuba.

The majority of the new arrivals are women and children, many weak and tired after the long trek from their villages through rough terrain, spokesman Ron Redmond said at a press briefing in Geneva. The refugees reported that they were forced to leave Cankuso Province by rebels who warned of impending conflict in areas of eastern Burundi. They also told of reprisals by the Burundian military, which accused villagers of complicity with the rebels.

In another development, UNHCR said almost 9,000 Congolese refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) fled this week's conflicts in south Kivu, near the border with western Burundi. The majority of those refugees are seeking asylum in Burundi's Cibitoke province, while about 100 other have fled to Rwanda's southwestern border town of Cyangugu, according to Mr. Redmond.

By yesterday, about 4,000 Congolese refugees had been registered at an old refugee site in Rugombo, Cibitoke province, and another 1,000 more were awaiting registration, while another group of 3,700 is being cared for at a temporary site further south, in Gatumba, close to the Burundian capital of Bujumbura.

After the DRC town of Uvira fell to Mai-Mai militia on 12 October, the militia have vowed to push northwards to take the town of Bukavu, on the southern shores of Lake Kivu, while the rebel group, Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD-Goma) have pledged to recapture Uvira, Mr. Redmond said.

 

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