At least five refugees were killed and 20 injured at a camp in Rwanda after a protest over a cut in food rations turned violent, Rwandan police said on Friday. Seven policemen were also injured.
Around 3,000 refugees had camped outside United Nations offices at the camp since Tuesday. On Thursday police tried to disperse them using teargas, police spokesman Theos Badege told state radio.
We used force ... yesterday afternoon after warning that security forces would be used.
"They started pelting stones, pieces of metal and in that 20 refugees were injured and seven police officers. Five of the refugees died," he said.
Fifteen refugees were arrested, the police said on their Twitter account.
On 20 February, about 500 refugees marched out of Kiziba Camp (Karongi district) in protest over reduced food rations. @MIDIMARRwanda, UNHCR and local leaders, among others, urged them to return to their camp as their grievance is being looked into. (1/3)— Rwanda Police (@Rwandapolice) February 23, 2018
However, these calls were met with strong resistance that turned violent. Refugees armed with sharp objects (stones, sticks & metal pieces) began to assault police officers, who then used tear gas to disperse the unacceptable riots and secure the nearby community. (2/3)— Rwanda Police (@Rwandapolice) February 23, 2018
The refugees from neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo had left their camp in Kiziba and walked 15 km (10 miles) to Karongi, in western Rwanda, to protest against a 25 percent cut implemented last month in rations provided by the U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR). The camp houses 17,000 Congolese.
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.
In January, UNHCR said it was cutting rations due to funding shortages.
It said on Thursday that its funding appeal of 2018 for Rwanda of $98.8 million was only 2 percent funded, and the World Food Programme had warned of more cuts if its monthly requirements of $2.5 million were not met.
Reporting by Clement Uwiringiyimana; Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Michael Perry