Refugees Continue to Flee Zaire, Aid Workers Attacked Near Camp

News and Press Release
Originally published
By CHRIS TOMLINSON Associated Press Writer
GISENYI, Rwanda (AP) _ Hundreds of Zairian Tutsis fled to Rwanda Sunday and more were crossing Monday to escape the Rwandan Hutus they said used machetes and guns to force them out of their homes and kill dozens of stragglers.

''We heard war cries and screaming around our houses so we decided to flee, we left everything, our house, everything we owned,'' said Kachira Nsengiyumva, whose two children were killed in the April 2 attack in Nyamitaba, about 100 kms (60 miles) north of Goma.

In another sign that security has deteriorated in eastern Zaire, unidentified gunmen attacked two aid vehicles in separate incidents Sunday, killing one Zairian and wounding two others. The attacks were near where 13 people were killed May 10 in an assault on an aid convoy bound for Kibumba refugee camp.

More than 300 ethnic Tutsis crossed into Rwanda on Sunday and Monday, many of them saying that Rwandan Hutus from refugee camps in Zaire had forced them from their homes, and Zairian troops did nothing to stop them.

''The Hutus took our houses as soon as we left, the Zairian troops protected us in the camp, but would not stop the Hutus,'' Adrien Rwasama said after reaching safety in Rwanda.

Jean Kamuzenzi said his neighbors were killed. ''We had to step over their bodies as we left,'' he said.

More than 10,000 ethnic Tutsis who have lived in the Masisi region of eastern Zaire for generations have fled to Rwanda after attacks on their villages since March 27 and more than 350,000 other people have been displaced inside Zaire.

The Zairian Tutsis report that Rwandan and Zairian Hutus have joined forces to establish a ''Hutuland'' in the Masisi region of eastern Zaire by forcing out smaller ethnic groups.

Rwasama said the attackers are members of the Interahamwe, the Hutu militias which carried out the genocide in Rwanda in 1994. More than 500,000 ethnic Tutsis were killed in the government-sponsored slaughter in less than 90 days.

They spoke Kinyarwandan, the local Rwandan language, carried guns and ''acted like soldiers, not farmers,'' Rwasama said. ''They hate us because we are Tutsi.''

Many of the killers and leaders from the former Rwandan government fled to eastern Zaire when the rebel Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front stopped the killing and seized power in July 1994. More than 1 million Hutu refugees now live in camps in eastern Zaire.

In the camps receiving the Zairian refugees, up to 20 percent of the children are suffering from malnutrition and the British aid agency Merlin said 13 have died from complications since April 24.

The children arriving in the camps are extremely thin and have begun to grow fuzzy reddish hair on their faces, a symptom of long-term protein malnourishment. Aid agencies have been unable to assist the refugees inside Zaire because of heavy fighting and poor roads.

Diplomats said the deterioration of the security situation in eastern Zaire poses a threat to the entire region. Hutu rebels are using the camps to mount raids on Rwanda and Burundi, and Zairian authorities have so far refused to take any action.

Last week a Hutu mob at tacked a monastery in the Masisi village of Motokos, killing at least 12 Tutsis and forcing hundreds to flee.

There is only a very small international presence in the Masisi and Rutshuru regions of eastern Zaire, so little information can be independently confirmed.

Zairian authorities have also banned foreign journalists from crossing into eastern Zaire.