KIGALI (Reuters) – Rwandan police fired teargas on Monday at refugees and injured at least one child after senior police officers and government officials visiting their camp were pelted with stones, the refugees said.
A police spokesman did not immediately respond to Reuters’ requests for comment, while the government said it was taking measures to “normalize the situation” at the Kiziba camp in western Rwanda, home to about 17,000 Congolese refugees.
The refugees said they feared the police intended to arrest the executive committee that helps to run the camp.
In February police killed at least five refugees and injured 20 at the camp after protests over cuts in food rations turned violent.
“They are firing teargas. One child was injured in (the) head and was transferred to Kigali,” Muligande Ntabana, a refugee at the camp told Reuters by telephone.
Another refugee, Captain Ferdinand, 32, a father of three, said: “We hear they want to arrest the committee. We need to go back home. I don’t know if requesting to go back should (be replied) with bullets and tear gas.”
In a statement, Rwanda’s Ministry for Disaster Management and Refugees blamed the refugees’ executive committee for the unrest and said the protests must end immediately.
“Violent, unruly and provocative conduct in the camp is unlawful and must stop immediately to allow the restoration of peace, law and order,” it said.
In February, the refugees staged a protest walk of 15 km (10 miles) over a 25 percent cut in food rations provided by the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR due to a funding shortage.
In total, Rwanda hosts about 174,000 refugees, including 57,000 people from neighboring Burundi who fled violence in 2015. Most of the rest fled the Democratic Republic of Congo during bouts of instability there over the past 20 years.
Reporting by Clement Uwiringiyimana; Writing by Omar Mohammed; Editing by Gareth Jones