Rwandan Refugees Report Huge Buildup
"We have had around 700 refugees coming from Sake today," said Sudi Balibwazi, a local worker for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.
"These refugees are reporting a long column of refugees stretching back from Sake into the Masisi and can only estimate the numbers as many thousands.
"These refugees are all from the camps around Goma but we have already had a small number of refugees coming from the direction of Bikavu who say there are many more behind them," Balibwazi said.
One refugee who had walked through the Masisi region and arrived at Sake Monday said there was fighting in the region between Zairean rebels and soldiers of the former Rwandan army.
"I came from Katale camp 30 days ago," said Samson Kwinduyira, 16. "The column of refugees stretches back into the Maisi and there is fighting in the Masisi between the rebels and the former Rwandan government army."
The UNHCR estimated there were 1.2 million Rwandan refugees in eastern Zaire until mid-November.
Aid agencies and the U.S. military estimate that up to 600,000 Rwandan refugees have returned to Rwanda from Zaire since mid-November after fighting between Zaire rebels and Rwandan Hutu militiamen and soldiers of the former Rwandan army.
The whereabouts of the rest remains a mystery.
A U.S. Navy P-3 Orion reconnaissance aircraft, designed to hunt submarines, circled for more than two hours over the area around Goma and Sake Tuesday to try to find the "missing" refugees.