Breaking News Emails

Get breaking news alerts and special reports. The news and stories that matter, delivered weekday mornings.
 / Updated  / Source: NBC News

Thousands people are fleeing the southern African nation of Burundi as political protests against the president continued on a fifth day Thursday.

According to the United Nations High Commission on Refugees (UNHCR) 21,000 Burundians have fled to neighboring Rwanda in recent weeks to escape electoral violence provoked by President Pierre Nkurunziza’s decision to seek a third term in June’s presidential elections.

Witnesses said protesters in several suburbs of the capital Bujumbura spent most of the day in a standoff with police, using smoldering tires, sticks and stones to barricade roads, according to Reuters.

A senior U.S. diplomat told Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza on Thursday that the east African country risks boiling over if it smothers political opposition.

Tom Malinowski, U.S. assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor, arrived in Burundi on Wednesday and urged “all actors to reject violence to safeguard the gains Burundi and its people have achieved since 2005.”

Samantha Power, U.S. Ambassador to the UN, said on Wednesday that Nkurunziza had violated the peace deal that ended the civil war by seeking a third term. She also condemned the government’s crackdown on media and civil society.

The crisis is being closely watched in a region scarred by a 1994 genocide that killed more than 800,000 people in neighboring Rwanda, which like Burundi is divided between ethnic Tutsis and Hutus.


— Emmanuelle Saliba, with Reuters