DR Congo

Human disaster in Hutu refugee camps in Eastern Zaire

News and Press Release
Originally published
[IRIN Note: IRIN does not usually distribute political statements, but given the current crisis, we feel it is useful for the humanitarian community to be aware of the widest range of information possible. IRIN's distribution of the item of course does imply endorsement in any way.]

Human disaster in Hutu refugee camps in Eastern Zaire, as UNHCR calls for a massive voluntary repatriation.

Reliable reports reaching us from South KIVU indicate that thousands of hutu refugees, particular the most vulnerable groups who include, women, the elderly, children pregnant women have died and are walking copses due to lack of water, food shelter, and medicine. Contrary to widely publicised reports, these refugees are not fleeing the fighting between zairean troops and the tutsi rebels(Banyamurenge), but because they have been direct targets of Banyamurenge militia and the RPF and burundian troops, who are coordinating their action to drive hutu refugees, like cattle, into Rwanda and Burundi. However instead of accepting to be forced into the hands of their attackers in Rwanda and Burundi, refugees have so far dodged the trap and are braving the hostile environment in the hills and forests of South Kivu, where they are likely to die a slow but sure death.

One should recall that this is a heavy rainy season and the area is not accessible to humanitarian assistance. In order to starve to death these refugees, the combined forces composed of Banyamurenge militia, RPF and burundian troops have made sure to cut all the supply routes to refugee camps.

In North KIVU, a similar operation is taking place. The supply routes from Uganda were cut between UNAGANA and GOMA and between KIBUMBA and Goma, and BUNIA and GOMA with the help of some elements from UGANDA.

In addition, the RPF troops are poised to attack the refugee camps of KIBUMBA, MUGUNGA, KATALE and KAHINDO, in order to escort at gun point the refugees back to Rwanda. The troops supposed to carry out the operation are from a well known position of the RPA army in MUTURA area, GISENYI prefecture.

Amid all these military raids by none other than RPF on rwandese refugee camps, the UNHCR is calling upon refugees to return home and has even embarked on a program of extending reception centres inside Rwanda. At the same time, in which looks like a coordinated strategy against rwandese refugees, we are reliably informed that the Tanzanian minister of defense declared in a press conference on Wednesday October 16,1996, that his country was going very soon to forcefully send rwandese refugees back home.

Much as refugees and understand the problems faced with the UNHCR in taking care of them under the present circumstances, refugees are nevertheless at loss to understand the rationale behind sending refugees to Rwanda whose regime is raiding their camps in neighbouring countries. This amounts to nothing but jumping from frying pan to fire. Moreover, the present chaos in Eastern Zaire, having been masterminded by the RPF and its brain child the BANYAMURENGE rebellion, purposely to corner and drive the refugees out by force of arms, coercing refugees to go home under any umbrella is giving in to RPF policy of annihilating refugees.

Refugees in these camps have gone without food, water and medicine for days and some have already died out of lack of care, a reminiscence of the cholera epidemic of July 94 which claimed tens of thousands of lives in Goma.

It is very sad that a human disaster of such magnitude leaves the international community, particular some human rights organisations and humanitarian agencies unmoved. It is inconceivable that some governments of civilised nations sacrifice millions of human beings allegedly to save 1 million dollar that is spent a day to feed refugees or, to impose on them regimes which they legitimately do not trust or to serve some hidden geopolitical interests.

RDR calls upon all civilised and peace loving people to get out of their indifference and come to the rescue of thousands of dying refugees particularly children, women and the elderly. Human rights organisations and humanitarian agencies should exert pressure on governments and relevant UN agencies so to bring Rwandan and Burundian governments to immediately open route supplies to refugee camps.

Chris Nzabandora

Director of Information


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