Burundi Students Seek Refuge at US Embassy


The US embassy in the East African country of Burundi is currently hosting 100 university students who sought refuge in the parking lot as the country faces political and social turmoil.

The students scaled embassy walls and crawled under the gates in an effort to escape police who had been trying to clear the streets of anti-government protests.  So far, around 200 students have successfully made it onto the embassy parking lot grounds, protected from the police by the United States Marines.

By nightfall, State Department officials said that around 100 students had peacefully chosen to leave the parking lot.  However, some of those who had left the grounds reported that they had been ordered to do so due to a lack of space.  They wandered the streets with only the clothes on their backs because the police had seized most of their belongings from the encampments, reports Marc Santora for The New York Times.

The events further inflamed the tense situation already in the country, which is making efforts to return to a normal life after years of civil war and ethnic violence.

Protests began to erupt after President Pierre Nkurunziza announced this April that he would be running for a third term.  The protests have led to hundreds being arrested, thousands leaving the country, and some being killed.

With one coup attempt already failed, the government has become forceful in dealing with any resistance.  One such place where opposition was felt in great strength was the college campus at the capital, which was ordered to shut down in April.

About 500 students from the school have remained outside the embassy for weeks, hoping for protection.  However, police had finally had enough and ordered the students to leave within 24 hours earlier last week or be removed by force.

While some did choose to leave, around 200 students remained in an act of defiance against the government.  “I would rather die here in front of the United States Embassy than die on my campus,” one student said.

When the 24 hours were up, police raided the location.  Students quickly crawled under the gates or scrambled over the walls of the embassy to escape.

“When the police invaded the premises where those students were accommodated, students ran away and took refuge in the office of the American Embassy,” an account on state radio reported. “The police took luggage and effects of those students.”

At the same time, Burundi’s second vice president, Gervais Rufyikiri, fled the country, reportedly in fear for his life after openly opposing the president’s controversial decision.