Fear of new Zaire exodus as talks fail

Kinshasa (agencies)- Zaire could begin throwing out Rwandan refugees again this week after its talks in Kinshasa with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees broke up yesterday without accord on the future of 1 million homeless. Officials said the talks will continue in Geneva, where the UNHCR announced that its chief, Sadako Ogata, would meet the Zairean Prime Minister, Kengo wa Dondo, tomorrow.

"There could not be agreement here because the UNHCR wanted to consult at a higher level," a source said. "Expulsions could begin again this week if no agreement is found, and at this stage the signs are not good," said another government source before the talks broke down.

Zaire began to expel Rwandan and Burundian refugees from camps in the east of the country on 19 August. An outcry resulted, with protests from the UN Security Council and many Western countries calling for the forced repatriations to stop on humanitarian grounds. More than 1 million refugees fled wars in their own countries to Zaire, where they are accused of destroying the environment and economy and of introducing insecurity. Special envoy Carrol Faubert, on a mission for the UNHCR, has been meeting Zaire officials for four days trying to agree a formula to turn the forced expulsions into voluntary repatriations.

Since Zaire suspended the use of force to drive the refugees back to Rwanda, few have taken up the offer of the UNHCR to take them under its wing. The voluntary repatriation plan came to a halt on Saturday, when only 47 refugees crossed into Rwanda. The Rwandans are mostly from the Hutu majority and fled after the victory in July 1994 of rebels dominated by the Tutsi minority. Many feared reprisals for a campaign of genocide in which up to one million Tutsis were killed by Hutu soldiers and militias.

At the weekend the remaining refugees in Zaire rebuilt huts burned by Zairean soldiers last week after five days of terror aimed at forcing Rwandans to leave.

Adrien Kalinunda's family, however, did not wait for a political resolution. With his wife and six of their seven children, he boarded the single repatriation bus that chugged back to Rwanda on Saturday. Missing was 10-year-old Isabelle, who was rounded up and deported after Zairean soldiers attacked their camp last week.

Mr Kalinunda said he had wanted to go home for a long time, but extremist Hutu militias in the camps view those planning to return as traitors and sometimes kill them. "I think most people want to go back," he said. "They would have gone back a long time ago if they hadn't been prevented. But since the Zaireans attacked, the militias haven't raised their heads for a week. They're all hiding in the mountains."

The mayor, Mashako Mamba Sebi, summed up the exasperation of Goma's 200,000 people with the refugees who flooded in last year. "We are crushed here," he said. "What happened this past week was a good thing, because the international community was asleep. But if things don't move, we'll be obliged to start again."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Client Manager

£27000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A growing, successful, friendly...

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'