Massacre sparks fears of a return to Rwandan genocide

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The Independent Online
RWANDAN GOVERNMENT soldiers were yesterday combing the border with Congo in pursuit of the Hutu rebels who carried out the latest atrocity in a mounting campaign of anti-government violence.

In a horrific echo of the Rwandan genocide of 1994, 50 men armed with machine-guns and machetes came down from the hills around Nkamira, 60 miles northwest of Kigali, on Wednesday and set about hacking and shooting the the 6,000 Tutsis who were taking refuge in the camp. Twenty-five people died immediately and a further 15 yesterday, on the way to hospital in nearby Gisenyi.

The horrific and indiscriminate attack bore all the hallmarks of the genocide of 1994. According to Dr Leon Ngeruka at Gisenyi hospital, at least 55 children were among the 85 wounded.

Often without protection, the displaced Tutsis, most of whom have returned from decades in exile from the former Hutu government, have been an easy target for the rebels.

In December, a similar rebel attack on the camp and a nearby army contingent left 71 people dead, including 48 rebels killed by government troops.

Last week, a shadowy group calling itself the Rwanda Liberation Army issued a statement in Nairobi, Kenya, claiming responsibility for a 7 June attack on another camp, 10 miles south of Gisenyi.

State-run Radio Rwanda said the troops were in search of the attackers, who had probably crossed from Congo where they are believe to maintain bases.

The rebels are former Hutu soldiers and militiamen who fled the country in 1994 in fear of reprisals for the 1994 genocide of more than 500,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

The three-month slaughter ended when Tutsi-led fighters won power in July 1994.

Authorities say the rebels have killed thousands since 1996, when the Hutu militiamen slipped back into the country with more than 1 million Hutu refugees.

In the past three months, the rebels appeared to have stepped up attacks in response to a government campaign to turn the predominantly Hutu population against providing insurgents with food, money and shelter.

Since March, at least 25,000 Hutus have returned from the volcanic mountains on the Congolese border where they had been forced by the rebels crossing in and out of Rwanda.

Meanwhile the wheels of Rwandan justice are slowly grinding on, dealing with the 130,000 genocide suspects imprisoned in the country.

A Rwandan court on Tuesday convicted 10 people for their involvement in the Hutu-organised massacres. Three of those convicted were sentenced to death, six others to life in prison and one received 15 years. One of the suspects was acquitted. The group was charged last month in the south-western town of Cyangugu with genocide, crimes against humanity, and destruction of property during the massacres.

A total of 130,000 genocide suspects have been imprisoned, many without formal charges. Around 350 have been convicted. A third of those were sentenced to death, with the first 22 executed on 24 April. Most of the others received prison sentences and a small number were acquitted.