Rwandans in exile

May 10, 1994

The rush of a quarter-million or more Rwandans across the Kagera River to sanctuary in Tanzania strains the ability of world refugee, health and food organizations to cope. Fortunately, a relief infrastructure of sorts exists there, because of previous migrations from neighboring Burundi. But it is the remotest part of Tanzania, with poor transportation and no facilities for the camps that need to be established until the people can go home.

The last refugee wave from Rwanda, a generation ago, fled to Uganda. They were largely Tutsi, formerly the high caste of the Tutsi-Hutu culture, and were dispossessed at the end of Belgian colonial rule. These refugees became embroiled in Uganda's ethnic and political dramas, sometimes serving the regime and sometimes its victims.

The current flood of refugees is mostly Hutu, from near the border of the densely populated rural country, fleeing east to Tanzania. They feared reprisal by Tutsi insurgents for the slaughter of Tutsi launched by the mostly Hutu Rwandan army

The dead of Rwanda cannot be brought back to life. The refugees in Tanzania, however, can be lured back to Rwanda by peace and order. That takes brokering by U.N. and pan-African agencies, between the current government of Rwanda (such as it is) and the RPF rebels. There has to be a cease-fire before attention can be switched to an accommodation, which there also must be. Once again, international conscience is challenged.

The Hutu and Tutsi may cherish their differences. But outside their own land they are both vulnerable to being discriminated against in someone else's country.

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