Rwanda to relocate Burundi refugees

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Hundreds of thousands have fled the recent unrest in Burundi

Rwanda says it plans to relocate Burundian refugees to other host countries, days after being accused of attempts to destabilise its neighbour.

Plans for the relocation of an estimated 70,000 refugees will start immediately, the government says.

Rwanda has been accused of arming and training refugees to fight Burundi’s government, charges it denies.

Burundi has been hit by unrest since President Pierre Nkurunziza decided to stand for a third term last April.

It is not clear to which countries the refugees will be relocated.

More than 400 people have died since the violence started in April and at least 240,000 have fled the country.

“The long-term presence of refugees so close to their country of origin carries considerable risks for all involved,” the Rwandan government said in a statement explaining the move.

In a hearing in the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this week, two top diplomats cited reports from colleagues in the field that they said pointed to Rwandan involvement in the Burundi crisis.

Thomas Perriello, US envoy for the Great Lakes region of Africa, said the reports suggested that Burundian refugees, including children, were being recruited from camps in Rwanda to participate in armed attacks against the Burundian government.

Last week, a UN panel reported that Burundian refugees had been recruited at a refugee camp in eastern Rwanda in May and June 2015, and given two months of military training.

Ms Mushikiwabo described the allegations in the UN report as “unfounded”.

Burundi’s deepening crisis:

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President Pierre Nkurunziza was re-elected for a third term last year

  • April 2015: Protests erupt after President Pierre Nkurunziza announces he will seek a third term in office.
  • May 2015: Constitutional court rules in favour of Mr Nkurunziza, amid reports of judges being intimidated. Tens of thousands flee violence amid protests.
  • May 2015: Army officers launch a coup attempt, which fails.
  • July 2015: Elections are held, with Mr Nkurunziza re-elected. The polls are disputed, with opposition leader Agathon Rwasa describing them as “a joke”
  • November 2015: Burundi government gives those opposing President Nkurunziza’s third term five days to surrender their weapons ahead of a promised crackdown.
  • November 2015: UN warns it is less equipped to deal with violence in Burundi than it was for the Rwandan genocide.
  • December 2015: 87 people killed on one day as soldiers respond to an attack on military sites in Bujumbura.
  • January 2016: Amnesty International publishes satellite images it says are believed to be mass graves close to where December’s killings took place

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