Rwanda and Zaire: The Situation Grows More Complicated

by the Africa Faith and Justice Network
Washington, DC - The situation in Zaire has become more critical and more complicated in the last few months. Fierce fighting has broken out in Masisi, one of the most fertile areas in Zaire. Living in the area were Rwandan Hutus (Zairean Hutus now), some of whom have been there since the 1900's, Rwandan Tutsis who fled the violence in the 1950's, Zairean Tutsis who were in Zaire when the border was finalized, and other Zairean groups such as the Hunde.

Fighting in this area has broken out from time to time over the years. It has worsened since the large influx of Hutu refugees in '94.

What appears to be happening is that the refugees have moved from the camps into Hutu villages in Masisi and are now joining with the Hutus in Zaire to drive out the minority Tutsis and establish a "Hutuland" in this rich agricultural land of northeastern Zaire.

Reports over the last two months say that at least 65,000 Tutsis have been displaced from their homes in Masisi; 11,000 have fled to Rwanda. Camps must now be opened in Rwanda because Zairean Tutsis are not entitled to repatriation. Many of the refugees are traumatized after days of terror. In one area 3000 Tutsis are trapped in two villages because of the fighting and a massacre is feared. At least 100 Tutsis have already been e movement of the displaced.

Meanwhile border raids from the camps into Rwanda continue. The Zairean troops have arrested more than 50 of the ringleaders in the camps. But refugees are still not going back in large numbers.

Events in Rwanda

Inside Rwanda, the security situation has worsened in some areas. It seems the rebels have become bolder and the army more on the defensive.

Both sides have been involved in attacks. Some of the incidents which have been reported in recent months:

- A woman was slaughtered; the evidence indicated that she was killed by genocide criminals who want to exterminate disturbing survivors and witnesses (25 such cases have been documented by African Rights).

- Infiltrators attacked a military prison in an attempt to free inmates; there was a clash with the army; the army killed at least 19 men (April).

- An armed gang burnt the entire Karengera township and freed the prisoners from the local prison (May).

- Rebels from Zaire raided local government offices and attacked three villages in Cyangugu region, killing at least 37 people. This was the worst attack since the end of the war in '94. Cyangugu fears civil war will start again.

- Shortly after the above attack, infiltrators attacked a jail near the border and killed more than 30 prisoners. It is unclear why the prisoners were killed.

Progress of Rwanda - Tribunal/Justice System

After two years, the Tribunal has indicted only eleven suspects. It is greatly hampered by lack of funds and by rivalry with the Rwandan Government who wants to try the suspects itself. One of the chief suspects, Theoneste Bagosora, who was arrested in Cameroon, is wanted also by the Belgian government for the slaying of ten Belgian peacekeepers. Since Cameroon has no extradition treaty with Rwanda, it has been a haven for genocide suspects. There is some indication, however, that Bagosora will be sent to the Tribunal.

Three suspects from Zambia are to be arraigned and transferred to Arusha, the seat of the Tribunal. They will be the first to go on trial. They include: Clement Kayishema, former governor of Kibuye who allegedly helped organize the slaughters in Kibuye where 90% of Tutsi residents were killed; George Anderson Rutaganda and Jean Paul Akaseyu, both charged with organizing and leading massacres in other areas.

Whereas the Tribunal has too few suspects in custody, the Rwandan justice system has too many. There are now more than 70,000 suspects in Rwanda's grossly overcrowded jails. Some attempts have been made to ameliorate prison conditions. And the Rwandan government is preparing to begin some trials.

In a surprise move, a U.S. court ordered a Rwandan suspected of war crimes to pay $105 million to relations of massacre victims. The Rwandan government was pleased that at least one suspect had been found guilty but troubled that the money was not allocated to build Rwanda.

Arms Flow

In addition to the culture of impunity, the flow of arms into the Great Lakes Region is another factor which exacerbates the situation.

A UN commission of inquiry uncovered strong evidence that Zaire had a part in shipping arms to soldiers of the former Rwandan army living in the camps. In April, the UN Security Council decided the commission should continue probing the arms flow to the camps. UN observers are to monitor airfield and other transport points.

The UN has also set up a trust fund to demilitarize central Africa and curb the flow of arms into the region. The trust fund will finance activities promoting "confidence-Building measures" and will support transparency in military acquisitions. An arms register will be set up.

For more information, contact the Africa Faith and Justice Network, a group of people of faith working towards positive change for the peoples of Africa, at PO Box 29378, Washington DC 20017; telephone 202 832 3412; fax 202 832 9051; e-mail

Copyright 1996 Around Africa. Distributed via Africa News Online. All rights reserved. May not be redistributed, posted to any other location, published or used for broadcast without prior written authorization from Africa News Service.