Two protestors killed as Burundi leader seeks 3rd 'illegal' term; 12,000 flee violence into Rwanda

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Critics say president's effort to cling to power is unconstitutional and could push Burundi back into violence.

Two protestors have been shot dead during clashes with police in the capital of Burundi, witnesses said on Sunday.

Clashes were taking place in several parts of Bujumbura the day after President Pierre Nkurunziza launched a controversial bid to stay in power for a third term and despite a government ban on protests.

Police in the central African nation  Sunday clashed with small groups of protestors, witnesses said, the day after the president was declared as candidate for a controversial third term.

An AFP correspondent said there were small demonstrations in several parts of the capital despite a government ban, with at least one outbreak of stone-throwing and anti-riot police beating back around 100 protestors trying to reach the city centre.

Back to violence

At least two police were wounded and two youths arrested, and police fired live rounds in the air in a bid to disperse the crowd.

Witnesses reported similar small-scale clashes in two other districts of the capital.

The protests come the day after Nkurunziza was declared the ruling party’s candidate for a third term in office.

Nkurunziza. (Photo/AFP).

Opposition figures and rights groups say the move is unconstitutional and say the president’s effort to cling to power could push Burundi—which emerged from civil war in 2006—back into violence.

Recent weeks have seen agitation against Nkurunziza’s plans to continue in power, and violence against regime critics that the opposition allege is engineered by the government.

The number of Burundi refugees crossing into Rwanda has now increased since the beginning of this week, with 1,000 fleeing across the border overnight Friday, taking the total to 11,850, the UN said.

Land for 20,000 refugees

“We are preparing for a possible sharp increase in arrivals in the coming days,” UNHCR’s External Relations Officer Martina Pomeroy said by the phone from the capital, Kigali. The refugee agency registered an average of 310 arrivals per day last week, but this increased to an average of more than 560 per day this week, she said.

On April 22, Rwanda allocated 50 hectares of land in the Mahama sector of Kirehe District in the eastern province for a new camp to host up to 20,000 refugees.

“We are working closely with American Refugee Committee to build shelter for refugees as quickly as possible in the new camp so we can increasingly relocate those in the reception centers to Mahama, and make space for new arrivals,” Pomeroy said.

Burundians have been seeking asylum in Rwanda since the beginning of the month as incidents of violence mount before Burundi holds presidential elections in June, the UN refugee agency said on April 15.

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