United Nations calls for calm after 'violent' refugee protest in Rwanda

An aerial view of Kiziba refugee camp in Karongi district in Western province of Rwanda

An aerial view of Kiziba refugee camp in Karongi district in Western province of Rwanda

Five Congolese refugees have been killed during protests over reduced food rations, with the United Nations refugee agency saying on Friday that police fired at the angry protesters.

"It was necessary for the police to tell (them) to show respect and warn them but as the police addressed them, they started throwing stones and police used necessary power", Badege told Reuters.

She said the condition had already killed 26 refugees from February 15 to 19, while 424 cases were being treated.

Around 700 Congolese refugees from Kiziba refugee camp were demonstrating outside the UNHCR field office in Karongi, in western Rwanda. Police were reported to have used teargas to disperse the protestors, after attempts to resolve the situation had failed.

Other refugees said police had also shot at them and at least one person had been killed.

The UNHCR explained that humanitarian operations in Rwanda remain severely underfunded, which forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to cut food rations by 10 per cent in November 2017 and by 25 per cent in January 2018.

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Tensions are high over cuts in food rations. Around 2,000 refugees began protesting on Tuesday after food rations were reduced. The UN's refugee agency, UNHCR, said it has received just two percent of the $98.8 million it needs this year to look after Rwanda's 173,000 refugees in six camps.

"They should return to the camp or go home if they want but they can not camp at the UNHCR office", Jeanne d'Arc DeBonheur, the minister for Disaster Management and Refugees Affairs told Reuters by phone.

UNHCR says that so far this year, more than 42,000 have already arrived, bringing the total number of Congolese refugees in Uganda to a quarter of a million.

The East African country's refugee population has risen sharply recently as people flood in from eastern Congo, where resurgent ethnic and inter-communal violence has uprooted hundreds of thousands.

Kiziba refugee camp hosts over 17,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

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