Hundreds Flee Burundi Capital as Deadly Violence Intensifies

Hundreds of residents in the north of Burundi’s capital have been fleeing the area as deadly violence escalates in the tiny East African country following the disputed re-election of President Pierre Nkurunziza.

Many people were marching away from the neighborhood of Mutakura on Thursday with mattresses perched on their heads, others had packed a few belongings on bicycles, while some were leading their goats as they left the area.

Violence in the nation that holds 6 percent of the world’s nickel reserves has killed more than 120 people and forced 180,000 others to flee their homes since April, when Nkurunziza announced his bid for another term. Opponents say his successful re-election in July violates a two-term limit set out in peace accords that ended a 12-year civil war in 2005.

Nicelate Nahayo, who hid under her bed for part of Wednesday night during heavy gunfire, said she was leaving the region before too much violence forced her family to evacuate without some basic belongings. During similar fighting in 1993 in which her husband was killed, the mother of two fled to safety before she could gather any of the family’s possessions.

“Now that the sun has risen, I want to leave this quarter and go somewhere,” she said. “War is knocking on our doors.”

War knocking

Another resident said she counted the bodies of four murdered people on Wednesday night.

“I am trying to get to where I can shelter my children,” Jacky Nziza, a resident, said as she packed some belongings. “We fear attacks by militias. Yesterday, a neighbor was killed.”

Three people were killed in the district, the national radio station reported on Thursday, citing police spokesman Pierre Nkurikiye. One mutilated body was found in Mutakura, he said, and the two others died during a clash between police and armed groups on Wednesday night. 

“We heard gunshots last night as police were patrolling,” said Egide Hakizimana, a Mutakura resident. “No one was shooting on them.”

Burundi Vice President Gaston Sindimwo told a meeting of local leaders on Tuesday the nation’s army would use force to confiscate weapons from civilians, according to a broadcast on national radio. Nkurunziza issued a Nov. 8 deadline for insurgents to surrender their weapons.

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