Burundi: shelling continues in capital, as fighting drives thousands from their homes

11 July 2003

Amid growing concern at the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Burundi, with massive numbers of people being driven from their homes by fighting in the capital Bujumbura, the United Nations reported today that a pause in the shelling overnight was short lived and clashes between government forces and rebels had resumed by mid-morning.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said shelling of the capital continued yesterday, with no less than seven mortars striking different parts of Bujumbura. An additional three mortars landed in the northeastern suburb of Gihosha yesterday evening, wounding four civilians. Most workers have stayed home, and many businesses remain closed again for the second day running.

The agency expressed concern for the inaccessible populations in the south, particularly in Bujumbura Rural where closed highways have prevented any humanitarian access since fighting began on Monday. "As the fighting moves and spreads into the interior of the country the international aid community must remain vigilant in their endeavour to assist and protect civilians. Their exposure to conflict and relative isolation from the capital makes them particularly vulnerable", said OCHA's Antoine Gerard.

The government has now registered 15,000 displaced people (IDPs) from Kanyosha, Musaga and Kinindo, temporarily relocated in the Burundi Life Museum. A host of UN agencies, including the UN World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) are working with international non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to facilitate the delivery of food, water and shelters to the IDPs.

Meanwhile, in the margin's of the African Union Summit underway in Maputo, Mozambique, Secretary-General Kofi Annan met this afternoon with the Foreign Minister of Burundi, Terence Sinunguruza. The Minister raised the issue of the bombardment of his capital by the Palipehutu-Forces Nationales de Libération (FNL- Rwasa), and the failure of a second group, the National Council for the Defence of Democracy-Forces for the Defence of Democracy (CNDD-FDD/ Nkurunziza), to honour a ceasefire agreement signed last December. Earlier in the day, Mr. Annan also had a one-on-one meeting with his Representative for Burundi, Berhanu Dinka.