Inside Rwanda's death camp hell

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The Independent Online
GITARAMA is in the grip of barely controlled panic. This squalid little Rwandan town, 25 miles south of Kigali, is the capital of a government-in-flight. All the shops are closed and army checkpoints, bolstered by machete-wielding militiamen, line the main streets.

In the distance, the guns of the rebel Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front can sometimes be heard.

But horror has not waited for the arrival of the enemy. In a barbed-wire enclosure on the outskirts of Gitarama more than 1,000 Tutsi languish in the worst conditions I have seen. Every day, I was repeatedly told, groups of men are taken from the camp and clubbed to death by government soldiers.

'First of all they started taking out the older men but now they are selecting the younger ones as well,' a young man in a baseball cap told me. 'We are very afraid but we know that if we tried to leave the camp the Interahamwe would get us.'

The Interahamwe ('Those who attack together') are gangs of machete-wielding young men from the government's youth wing. Their ranks are now swollen by those whose only interest is to join in the hunt.

Hundreds of people fill the courtyard of a former seminary; hundreds more huddle together in fetid rooms, cellars and outhouses. The dead lie among the sick and the dying. There is little food and no running water. An elderly woman takes my arm and points pleadingly to her stomach. In the centre of the compound children play in the dirt beside two bodies placed on a stretcher.

By a stroke of irony, this field of misery is in full view of the Red Cross, but its workers are prevented from entering.

Yesterday, as the UN failed to agree on sending a force to Rwanda, aid agencies were doubling the estimated death toll in Rwanda's bloodletting. They now believe that at least 500,000 people have died in the last few weeks - a figure which, over such a short period, puts Rwanda near the top of any list of slaughters in history.

And the killings in this one have not stopped.

Land of ghosts, page 10