UNHCR shocked over Burundians deaths in DRC, calls for investigation

FILE Burundian refugees who voluntarily came back to Burundi from the Democratic Republic of Congo pose with a Burundian flag in the western Burundian town of Gatumba on 5 October 2010

Expressing shock and sadness over the violent death of numerous Burundian nationals - among them likely refugees and asylum seekers - in Kamanyola town, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the United Nations refugee agency called for an investigation into the incident.

There are over 400,000 Burundian refugees in DRC who fled after violence erupted in their country in April 2015 when incumbent President Pierre Nkurunziza refused to leave power after serving two terms and stood in elections for a third term.

Five soldiers and 20 of the attackers were killed in the fighting, Mende said.

More than 100 refugees were accused of overrunning a jail to demand the release of four Burundians who were arrested on Wednesday night and due to be expelled from the country. "I have counted 32 bodies".

At least 124 refugees were also wounded.

Reuters TV footage showed more than 30 bodies covered by sheets on the roadside in Kamanyola, with many more wounded also lying in the street. The death of the Congolese army officer led to "the escalation of violence".

Boji, who had put the toll at 34 dead earlier - including a Congolese soldier - said troops tried to disperse the refugees by "firing in the air but were overwhelmed" when the group responded by throwing stones.

"Clarifications are needed on the shootings and circumstances around", he added.

The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General Congo, Maman Sidikou, in a statement said that he condemned the acts of violence perpetrated in Kamanyola. The government rejected the commission's findings as "propaganda".

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