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Burundian Refugees Stream into Rwanda


Burundian refugees, register with officials at a Bugesera reception center Eastern Rwanda. (Mohammed Yusuf for VOA)

Burundian refugees, register with officials at a Bugesera reception center Eastern Rwanda. (Mohammed Yusuf for VOA)

Rwanda is hosting more than 20,000 Burundians who fled their country this week, amid protests against President Pierre Nkurunziza running for a third term.

A group of Burundian refugees living at a reception camp in Rwanda talked about their challenges and the circumstances in which they would go back.

"I was spending much of the time in the bush," one woman said, explaining that when the violence erupted, she fled to the bushes.. "And in the bush there was too much mosquitoes, see how my skin have turned red because of that mosquito bites."

Another refugee, Ingiraneza Flaha, said armed men took all their belongings and left them with nothing.

"Before we got to the border, armed militia men allied to the government beat us up, took all our clothes and little money we had and left us to continue with our journey with nothing," she said. "Some of us were half naked. We got here with nothing."

A group of refugees started shouting at a woman who said her husband was fine back in Burundi despite her being in the camp seeking refuge.

Another refugee is 35-year-old Manirakiza Grigory, who has visible bruises on his right arm and lower lip. He said he was beaten by armed men on his way to the Rwandan border.

"Four armed men captured me and shoved me to the ground and started beating me up in my arm and kicked me in my mouth," he said. "Then I started crying loud so that I can get help. All the people on the road ran away. They continued to beat me and left me there."

Children shield themselves from the morning sun at a reception camp in Eastern Rwanda, while they wait to be sent to one of the refugee camps set by the Rwandan government. (Mohammed Yusuf for VOA)

Children shield themselves from the morning sun at a reception camp in Eastern Rwanda, while they wait to be sent to one of the refugee camps set by the Rwandan government. (Mohammed Yusuf for VOA)

This reception center hosts more than 10,000 refugees. At least 2,000 per day are relocated to different camps set up by the Rwandan government to shelter the refugees.

Bugesera Gashora reception camp manager Karangwa Azarie said the center cannot hold such a large number of refugees.

"Each camp must have some challenges, because this is not a hotel where people have booked places."

Azarie said one day the camp received 3,000 people and shelters were not enough to house such a big number.

"So we are following the number but numbers are not following shelters," he added. "That's the challenge. But we try our best."

Twenty-six-year-old Nduwayo Azaleas said he will not return home until President Nkurzinza steps down.

"If he continues contesting for the presidency, we refugees — we won't go back home," Azaleas said. "When he says I am no longer vying for the seat for the third term and he pulls all his armed militia men in our villages and in the streets, we will go back home."

Meanwhile, most of these Burundians wait to be transferred to another camp, where an uncertain future awaits them.

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