Over 100,000 flee Burundi as post-coup clashes continue

United Nations Refugee Agency reports that over 105,000 people have fled Burundi as clashes continue following an attempted coup in Burundi

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Updated Jul 28, 2015

The United Nations refugee agency announced on Friday that over 105,000 people have fled Burundi to Tanzania, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo after clashes erupted in the country following an attempted coup.

According to the UNHCR’s report, over 70 thousand people fled to Tanzania as over 26,000 and 9,00 escaped to Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo respectively.

The report came as civilians look to flee Burundi following clashes which erupted after a group of security officials announced Wednesday that Burundi’s President Pierre Nkurunziza had been overthrown.

The clashes between the forces of the coup leaders and those still loyal to Nkurunziza carried on into Friday, as the three generals - two from the army and one from the country’s police force - behind the attempted coup were arrested after Nkurunziza returned from Tanzania where he had been in hiding at an undisclosed location in Dar es Salaam Thursday night.

One of the generals behind the coup attempt remains at large.

Shortly after the UN report, US State Department spokesperson Jeff Rathke told a press conference that the United States recognises Nkurunziza as Burundi’s legitimate leader while urging Americans in the country to leave.

"There are competing claims to authority, but we recognise President Nkurunziza as the legitimate president," he said, "There are multiple reports of clashes and violence in Bujumbura and we have called for all actors in Burundi to show restraint."

The news of the coup was initially met with massive celebration rallies on Wednesday noon-time before forces loyal to the presidency and the army began exchanging fire near the presidential palace and the state broadcasting facility.

Burundi has been hit by protests in opposition to President Pierre Nkurunziza's running for a third term as Burundi's constitution stipulates that a president can only serve for two terms.

The constitution limits the presidency to two terms in office, but Nkurunziza's supporters said he can run again because he was selected for his first term by lawmakers and not through elections.

Protesters say his attempt at a third term is illegal according to a 2006 peace deal between Hutus and Tutsis which ended a 13 year long conflict that resulted in hundreds of thousands of deaths in the country.

Tens of people died in nationwide uprisings, with one demonstrator having been burned alive by security forces, in protests spanning the course of two weeks.

TRTWorld and agencies