Thousands of Burundian refugees flee to Uganda

Dire living conditions in refugee camps have compounded the Cholera problem

Burundian refugees arriving in Tanzania this July

The Uganda government is expecting an influx of more than 100,000 refugees from Burundi in the coming weeks, as the political situation in the Central African state deteriorates day by day.

The Commissioner for refugees in the Office of the Prime Minister Apollo Kazungu tells this website that over one hundred refugees are entering the country on a daily basis some from as far as the capital Bujumbura. “Over 10,000 refugees have arrived in Uganda since November 2014 and 50 per cent of them are children under the age of 18 years, but the numbers have swelled since last week,” Kazungu added.

The latest group of over 100 refugees arrived at the Nakivale refugee camp on Monday, Uganda’s largest refugee settlement. And Burundians now make up the largest number of refugees in the camp, which also welcomes Rwandans and Congolese.

Besides Uganda, other East African Community countries like Rwanda, Tanzania and DRC are hosting hundreds of thousands of Burundian refugees who have fled the turmoil in their nation.

Protests in Burundi began in April when President Pierre Nkurunziza announced he would seek a third term in office. The US state department has also warned Americans not to travel to Burundi as political violence there increases.

A travel warning issued on Sunday urged US citizens in the central African country to leave “as soon as it is feasible to do so”. “As a result of continuing violence, the Department of State ordered the departure of dependents of US government personnel and non-emergency US government personnel from Burundi,” the US statement read.

“The US Embassy is able to offer only very limited emergency services to US citizens in Burundi.” It also gave advice for citizens who may encounter violence, advising them to stay indoors in ground floor rooms, away from doors and windows.

On Friday last, 87 people were killed after three military sites were attacked, Burundi’s army said.US rights group Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Sunday called for an investigation into the killings. Last month, Belgium also advised its citizens to leave Burundi, while the EU cut staff levels, temporarily evacuating employees’ “families and part of the non-essential staff.”

In a related development, the European Union has revealed it is ready to foot the bill for hosting Burundi talks outside the Central African nation, possibly in Uganda given the fact that Ugandan leader Yoweri Museveni is the mediator in the stalled talks between the government in Burundi, and the opposition and civil society.

“For the mediation, we are offering support to Uganda in shouldering the cost of the talks that will take place outside Burundi. This was the mandate given to Uganda by the EAC to bring together the opposition and civil society outside Burundi where conditions are conducive for constructive dialogue between the Burundian and it is that process that the EU is willing to support,” Kristian Schmidt, EU Head of Mission to Uganda said Tuesday.