10,000 Burundians flee vote

Majority of the refugees are women and children

Majority of the refugees are women and children

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has announced almost 10, 000 Burundians fled the country over the weekend in fear of potential violence during the just concluded communal and legislative elections.

Burundian authorities closed all borders on Sunday prompting many Burundians to resort to alternative routes through the bushes and forests just to get their way out of the conflict-torn nation

“Refugees now have to use informal border crossings through the forest to leave the country,” UNHCR spokesperson Melissa Fleming told the press in Geneva Tuesday.

According to the UN refugee agency the fleeing refugees were heading to Burundi’s neighbours Rwanda, Tanzania and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

“Over the weekend, the pace of arrivals spiked, with more than 6,000 arrivals in Tanzania and over 3,000 in Rwanda,” Fleming said adding  “On Monday, we only registered 777 Burundian arrivals in Rwanda, while more than 2,000 refugees managed to reach Tanzania through the forest.”

There have been reports of people suspected of fleeing the country being beaten and forced off trucks and buses to stop them from leaving, says UNHCR

The agency estimates 144,000 Burundians have now been forced out of their homes and country since the conflict started at the end of April following the governing party CNDD-FDD’s decision to nominate President Pierre Nkurunziza as it candidate in forthcoming presidential poll.

In the days leading up to Monday’s elections, grenade explosions had been occurring on a daily basis. Almost a dozen people lost their lives and nearly 60 sustained serious injuries in the attacks in Bujumbura and across the country.

Even on election Monday, polling stations were attacked and voting delayed, the turnout was evidently low especially in the capital.

The polls were boycotted by the opposition and the international community pulled out their observers or didn’t send them in altogether.

The opposition, civil society, and regional leaders and the international community had urged the government to postpone the polls in vain.

“These elections were held in unacceptable conditions, were not inclusive, fair and democratic.” Deputy President of opposition party FRODEBU, Frederic Bamvuginyumvira,told Reuters. .

The country’s electoral commission (CENI) is yet to announce results of the elections as counting votes continues.

Results of the elections are expected to be dismissed by the opposition and other stakeholders, and they are likely to be another sticking point in the stalled talks to end the political conflict.