Burundi: Rebels attack village, displace 3,000 people

BUJUMBURA, 11 March (IRIN) - Some 3,000 residents of Rukaramu, an area 10 km northwest of the capital, Bujumbura, have been living in the open since Sunday for fear of attacks by rebels of the Forces nationales de liberation (FNL) loyal to Agathon Rwasa, according to local authorities.
"During the day, they [residents] go to farm in their fields, but they spend the night in the neighbouring zone of Gatumba," Daniel Nsazurwimo, the chief of Rukaramu, told IRIN. "We are trying to persuade them to return to their homes."

Gatumba is eight kilometres southwest of Rukaramu, which is surrounded by the Rukoko Forest - an ideal haven for the rebels. Residents have promised to go home when security is in their area is strengthened.

The army has been pursuing the rebels over the past two weeks, forcing many to flee across the border into the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the towns of Uvira, Makobola or Luvungi.

On Saturday, the rebels attacked Rukaramu, spreading panic among residents. Nsazurwimo said the rebels killed one person, wounded 10, and looted 200 homes. Local authorities and residents of Rukaramu zone said the attack was in revenge for two rebel fighters the army had captured two weeks earlier.

The rebels have accused Rukaramu residents of collaborating with the army, but deny hostility towards them. "We live together with the populations of Rukaramu, they often bring food to our combatants, we cannot kill them," Pasteur Habimana, the rebel spokesman, told IRIN.

Government has said that Rwasa's fighters have killed at least 800 Hutu local officials and many Hutu civilians since 1996, after accusing them of collaborating with the army.


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