‘Tens of thousands’ more refugees coming

Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta reacts as EAC chair and Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete discusses the crisis in Burundi on Wednesday. Photo: Daniel Hayduk

Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta reacts as EAC chair and Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete discusses the crisis in Burundi on Wednesday. Photo: Daniel Hayduk

The International Rescue Committee (IRC) says they’re expecting ‘tens of thousands’ more refugees who are making their way to Tanzania as the region braces for a humanitarian crisis in the wake of Wednesday’s coup announcement.

As the situation in Burundi remained unclear overnight, army factions exchanged fire in the streets and forces loyal to President Pierre Nkurunziza declared that the coup failed.

Nkurunziza, who is believed to have returned to Dar es Salaam after his plane to the capital Bujumbura was turned back on Wednesday, tweeted on Thursday morning that “the situation is under control” and appealed for calm.

As of May 12, it’s reported that there are 23,000 Burundi refugees in Tanzania and those “numbers are rising fast” says Tanzania’s UNHCR representative Joyce Mends-Cole.

The IRC says there are currently over 15,000 refugees waiting on Kagunga island waiting for the century old German imperial warship turned passenger ferry MV Liemba to bring them to shore.

The UNHCR has hired the ferry to bring refugees over, at a cost of approximately $17.50 USD (34,000 TSH) per person.

“The MV Liemba is being used right now as the only boat to ferry people to Tanzania,” says Mends-Cole.

Each three hour journey by the vessel brings 600 refugees to shore, however those who remain face overcrowded and unsanitary conditions.

“The IRC is ramping up health staffing and stocking up medical supplies on the island to help prevent outbreaks of disease,” says a post on the organization’s website.

Yesterday, the East African Community (EAC) met in Dar es Salaam to discuss the crisis and the unfolding coup.

“The summit condemns the violence and calls on all the parties to make sure the violence stops” says Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete and EAC chair who also condemned the coup and added that the current situation is “not conducive to elections.”

Read more: EAC condemns Burundi coup

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