Fearful Rwandans stick it out in Goma

PATRICK MCDOWELL

Associated Press

Goma - Zaire's patience ebbed yesterday as a United Nations effort to end the country's refugee crisis foundered, but not even the threat of more expulsions could budge most people from the shabby camps that have become home.

A handful of Rwandans left on UN trucks on Saturday, their last view one of fellow countrymen determined to stay behind. The remaining refugees 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."

Zaire suspended the expulsions, which drove out 15,000 refugees, after the UN High Commissioner for Refugees agreed to organise a voluntary repatriation programme. But since Friday only about 250 of the 1.2 million refugees living along Zaire's borders with Rwanda and Burundi have volunteered to return.

Nearly all the refugees are Hutus, the ethnic majority blamed for the massacres of at least half a million Rwandans during last year's civil war. Most victims were from the Tutsi minority, who later defeated the former Hutu regime and now holds power in Rwanda.

Hutus fear retribution from Tutsis if they return to Rwanda or Burundi, which has the same ethnic divisions. Indeed, many have grown accustomed to life in the camps, which number about 50 and range in population from 200,000 to a few hundred.

Those who return are screened at a UNHCR transit camp 14 miles inside Rwanda. Single young men are questioned closely by Rwandan officials to determine if they belonged to the militias that carried out last year's massacres. At least 30 suspected militiamen were detained last week.

UNHCR officials say they have the capacity to take home 5,000 refugees a day, and that it is too early to declare the repatriation effort a failure. The issue is to be discussed today in Geneva during a meeting between the Zairean Prime Minister, Kengo Wa Dondo, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Sadako Ogata.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
News
Robert De Niro has walked off the set of Edge of Darkness
news The Godfather Part II actor has an estimated wealth of over $200m
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower