Bujumbura – A senior Burundian officials said on Monday that Rwanda had expelled more than 1,300 Burundians in the past week after they refused to move to refugee camps.
He said this is coming amid signs of political crisis testing relations between the two countries.
Rwanda has been hosting tens of thousands of people who have fled more than a year of political violence in Burundi – and others who have crossed the border for years for work, often without formal permission.
Melchior Nankwahomba, Governor of Burundi’s Kirundo Province, next to the Rwandan border, said they were asked to go to refugee camps or return back to Burundi.
He said those who refused to go to refugee camps were chased and stripped of their possessions.
Nankwahomba added that the Burundians were pushed out by local officials.
The governor put the number expelled at 1,300, while a Burundian Interior Ministry official said the total was around 1,500, with 1,300 coming from Kirundo province alone.
Nankwahomba said more than 450 people had been killed in Burundi’s violence in the past year and at least three armed rebel groups had emerged.
“About a quarter of million people have fled Burundi to neighbouring states, such as Rwanda and Tanzania.
Rwandan President, Paul Kagame, a Tutsi, had said that he would not allow a repeat of the genocide in the region and has been critical of the handling of the crisis by President Pierre Nkurunziza, who led a Hutu rebel group in Burundi’s civil war.
Western diplomats said Rwanda could intervene if Tutsis became a target. (Reuters/NAN)