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More than 5,000 Burundians flee to Rwanda in two days: UN.

More than 5,000 Burundians fled to Rwanda over the weekend following mounting tensions in the central African country, bringing the total number of arrivals in April to nearly 21,000, the UN said Tuesday.

"There has been a sharp increase in the number of Burundian refugees arriving in Rwanda," Ariane Rummery, spokeswoman for the UN refugee agency said.

"Five thousand people entering the country in two days is quite a significant jump... It is certainly concerning," she told reporters in Geneva.

The Rwandan government has put the number of Burundians arriving in the country since the beginning of April at 21,000, and expects the number could rise to 50,000.

Another 3,800 Burundian nationals have meanwhile fled to the South Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo since the beginning of the month, UNHCR said.

Most of the new arrivals in Rwanda are women and children, Rummery said, adding that the refugees had reported facing intimidation and threats of violence linked to upcoming elections.

The outflow came as the official list of candidates for Burundi's presidential elections on June 26 was published at the weekend, with President Pierre Nkurunziza's bid to cling to power for a third term sparking massive demonstrations.

At least five people have died since clashes broke out Sunday after the ruling CNDD-FDD party, which has been accused of intimidating opponents, confirmed Nkurunziza's candidacy.

The government has banned all protests and deployed large numbers of police and troops to quell the unrest. Some of those killed were shot at close range.

Hundreds of stone-throwing protesters have been arrested.

"The situation is quite chaotic at the moment," UNHCR spokeswoman Karin de Gruijl told reporters.

"We think that this violence might continue and this fear of violence might continue and that there might be a bigger outflux, particularly to Rwanda," she warned.

Rwanda, which is already hosting more than 74,000 refugees mainly from neighbouring DR Congo, has allocated land in Mahama in the Eastern Province for a new refugee camp, with the capacity to hold up to 50,000 people.

UNHCR said it was helping move refugees there in daily convoys of up to 1,500 people.

CAPTION(S):

Residents gather around a burning tyre roadblock following clashes between police and opposition protesters in a street in the capital Bujumbura, Burundi Sunday, April 26, 2015. Hundreds of people in Burundi protested in the capital Sunday after the country's ruling party nominated President Pierre Nkurunziza to run for a third term. (AP Photo)

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Title Annotation:Uncategorized
Publication:Manila Bulletin
Geographic Code:6BURU
Date:Apr 28, 2015
Words:418
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