Zairian government placing refugees at risk, sources say


ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast -- The Zairian government has stepped up a campaign to arm Hutu guerrillas living among the largest population of Rwandan refugees still in Zaire, effectively making human shields of tens of thousands of refugees, according to diplomats and international relief workers.

Diplomats and aid workers say that, in recent days, so many weapons have been flown into the Tingi-Tingi camp that they have interrupted relief shipments. The camp, 125 miles southwest of Zaire's third-largest city, Kisangani, is a tiny jungle village that has swelled to 150,000 people as Rwandan Hutus fleeing fighting in the east flocked into the camp.

The arming of Hutu refugees also threatens to set off another wave of ethnic killings as Zaire's embattled government enlists Hutus to fight an advancing rebel army led mostly by Tutsis. And it poses uncomfortable questions for aid workers who must decide whether they can safely stay in the camp to help refugees, many of whom are implicated in previous massacres of Tutsis.

According to an internal United Nations report, "arms, uniforms, and munitions are being supplied daily in the camp itself." The report went on to describe a "well-defined area at the eastern XTC edge of the landing strip" that is being used as a makeshift armory by the Zairian army and its Hutu allies.

Pub Date: 2/19/97

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