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Burundi Expels Rwandan Diplomat as Tensions Rise


Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza is sworn in for a third term at a ceremony in the parliament in Bujumbura, Burundi, Aug. 20, 2015.

Burundi's President Pierre Nkurunziza is sworn in for a third term at a ceremony in the parliament in Bujumbura, Burundi, Aug. 20, 2015.

Burundi has expelled a senior Rwandan diplomat, officials said on Wednesday, the latest sign of tension between the central African neighbors that share a history of ethnic conflict.

Burundi was plunged into crisis six months ago, when President Pierre Nkurunziza's announcement he would seek a third term ignited weeks of protests and a failed coup. Nkurunziza went on to win a July 21 vote, but opposition groups have accused his government of a violent crackdown against them.

Rwanda, which endured a genocide in 1994, has expressed alarm about the situation in Burundi and its regional implications.

Salvator Ntacobamaze, permanent secretary in Burundi's Ministry of External Relations and International Cooperation, said the diplomat, Desire Nyaruhirira, had been expelled but declined to give any further explanation.

Government spokesman Phillipe Nzobonariba said the expulsion was most likely due to the diplomat's alleged contacts "with putschists [those seeking to overthrow a government by force] hosted in Rwanda."

"It is not a problem with a country but a problem with an individual since he is reported to be in permanent contact with coup plotters," he said.

Rwanda had no immediate comment.

Opposition groups have accused Burundi's government of launching a crackdown since May, when crowds first took to the streets saying Nkurunziza's bid for a third presidential term was unconstitutional.

Burundian security personnel have been accused of conducting frequent raids in parts of the capital Bujumbura that are known to be opposition strongholds.

A row broke out this week at a prison in central Burundi after police tried to move 28 prisoners tied to efforts to topple Nkurunziza into isolation. Inmates blocked the police from entering, while opposition leaders said they feared for the prisoners' lives.

The police on Wednesday succeeded in isolating the 28 prisoners, prison officials said, with no deaths reported.

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