Burundi forces clash with Congolese refugees

Burundian forces fired live rounds in the air to deter hundreds of Congolese refugees from returning home, sparking skirmishes and injuries, officials said on Wednesday.

The two days of trouble on Monday and Tuesday began when about 900 refugees decided to return home on foot rather than be transferred to a new camp further away from the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

“Yesterday [Tuesday] at dawn, soldiers and police surrounded Gihinga refugee camp and tried to force us to move to a new camp in Ruyigi,” said Freddy Gakunzi, the head of the Congolese Tutsi refugees at Gihinga camp.

“The police fired on us and we hit back by throwing stones,” he told Agence France-Presse.

Gakunzi said 29 refugees were injured, but a regional official said only two refugees and one police officer were injured.

“To my knowledge two Congolese refugees were injured and a police officer, who was hit on the head by a stone,” regional governor Frederic Nahayo told AFP.

The refugees for the most part fled the Democratic Republic of Congo’s eastern South Kivu region in 2004. They set off for home despite a warning by the United Nations refugee agency that it was not safe to return to South Kivu owing to a military operation there. — AFP

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