The nearly 500 Belgian citizens in Burundi have been advised by the Belgian government to leave amid rising tension and escalating violence.
The move comes after recent anti-Belgian demonstrations in Bujumbura, mainly by members of President Pierre Nkurunziza’s youth wing, in response to Belgium’s insistence that Nkurunziza was in power illegally after serving his last term in August. The Burundi government earlier demanded that Belgium replace its ambassador there.
Burundi has experienced political instability and violence since April when Nkurunziza launched a bid for a third term as leader with at least 240 people killed in protests and riots.
Several other nations including Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia have issued travel warnings advising their citizens to avoid non-essential travel to Burundi and, if already there, to leave as soon as possible.
This includes the European Union which said it would reduce the number of staff at its embassy due to the rising risk of violence.
The evacuations and travel warnings come amid growing international fears of a Rwandan-style genocide in Burundi, which has prompted the UN Security Council to unanimously adopt a resolution strongly condemning the escalating violence in a country that has a history of tension between Hutu and Tutsi ethnic groups.
While the UN deliberates its plan of action others are calling on the African Union (AU) to step up to the plate and play a decisive role in finding an African solution before the potentially devastating impacts of genocide again reverberate across the region.