Burundi: thousands fleeing to Tanzania
Since Monday, thousands of refugees from villages in the eastern Burundi province of Cankuzo have been streaming across the Tanzanian border near Ngara following clashes between Burundi rebels and government troops. The number of arrivals has increased daily, reaching 2,700 yesterday with 2,000 more waiting at the border to be transferred to Mbuba transit camp.
The first arrivals said that rebels who last week attacked military targets in the east had ordered civilians in the area to leave Burundi. On Wednesday, UNHCR staff in Tanzania saw villages burning across the border in Burundi and some refugees arriving that day identified the burning homes as their own. They said they fled battles between the army and rebel forces. Four people were treated for gunshot wounds but the majority are reported to be in good health. Many indicated that they hoped to return to Burundi as soon as possible as many expect to be able to harvest their crops in the coming weeks.
Through Thursday night, UNHCR staff had transferred almost 5,000 refugees from the border zone 100 km south of Ngara to a transit centre and then to Lukole camp. Refugees are crossing over a wide area, with the main crossings located in a steep-sided valley which makes movement more difficult.
Recent arrivals in the Kigoma region of Tanzania also reported an increase in internal displacement in Burundi, saying thousands of people have been recently forced out of their villages by rebels in Cankuzo Province. Three casualties received in Kasulu district reported continued heavy fighting in communes of the Rutana and Makamba Provinces.
There are currently close to 340,000 Burundian refugees in Tanzania, out of a total of 475,000 refugees in the country. Arrivals from Burundi had been steadily decreasing since the beginning of this year until July, with a recent influx of 7,800 arrivals in August alone. There are in addition between 170,000 and 200,000 Burundians who have been living in settlements around Tanzania since 1972. A survey was recently done on a representative sample of this population to assess their profile and specific needs.