Hutus reportedly attacking thousands of Tutsi in Zaire Violence suggests militias rebuilding at U.N. camps

June 16, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

GISENYI, Rwanda -- Refugees from eastern Zaire say Hutu supremacists who were pushed out of Rwanda in 1994 have been sowing hatred among Zairian Hutu, encouraging them to attack their Tutsi neighbors.

People fleeing Zaire say Hutu gangs trained by Hutu Rwandan militia members have attacked thousands of Zairian Tutsi over the last six months.

The attacks have prompted at least 24,000 people to flee into Rwanda and pushed another 65,000 out of their homes and farms inside Zaire.

The attacks on Tutsi in Zaire are one of several signs that the Hutu militias have used United Nations refugee camps in eastern Zaire as bases for rebuilding their strength since they were forced to flee Rwanda two years ago, just ahead of a rebel army under Tutsi command.

These militias, who during the 1994 civil war in Rwanda killed at least 500,000 civilians -- mostly minority Tutsi and politically moderate Hutu -- are creating havoc throughout the region.

They are mounting raids in eastern and southeastern Rwanda and have begun pushing Zairian Tutsi off their land in the Masisi and Rutshuru districts.

The Zairian authorities have failed to control violence in the area despite sending in troops in November and again two months ago.

In the last month, Zaire has barred foreign journalists from the entire region including Goma and the surrounding five camps of Rwandan refugees.

But refugees interviewed at a new camp just inside Rwanda gave accounts of being threatened and attacked by gangs of Hutu who voiced the same hatred of Tutsi as the Hutu supremacists from Rwanda.

"They kept telling us that since we have left our property and our brothers in Rwanda, we have to join them," said Zacaria Ngamije, 66, a farmer.

"They said this was no longer our land," he added.

The slogans made little sense to Ngamije and other Tutsi refugees, he said, since most of the Tutsi in Masisi have lived in Zaire for generations and consider themselves Zairians, not Rwandans.

Pub Date: 6/16/96

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