Hutus trek home from camps at gunpoint

Butare - Rwandan soldiers prodded tens of thousands of Hutu refugees out of Butare towards their villages yesterday while fears intensified that mass returns would touch off a wave of deadly reprisals by Tutsis.

An estimated 60,000 people were camped in the open in and around Butare, having fled from the Kibeho refugee camp, 20 miles to the west after thousands were gunned down by soldiers or trampled to death in stampedes on Saturday.

An official UN estimate said at least 2,000 men, women and children were killed at Kibeho, but some UN officials and private aid workers say the number was probably much higher.

Most of the camp refugees are Hutus who took shelter last year, fearing reprisals by the victorious Tutsi-led rebel army. The Tutsi-dominated government in Kigali has been trying for months to get the more than 2 million refugees in Rwanda, and in neighbouring countries, to go home.

Its soldiers were continuing that effort in Butare yesterday, sometimes harshly. Aid workers and others said many refugees were being abused by civilians and soldiers.

"Local people standing along the route are carrying sticks and hitting them quite heavily," Brynjar Wetteland, with the UN Children's Fund, said. "I even saw lots of soldiers hit people that were quite unable to defend themselves."

The UN special envoy to Rwanda, Shaharyar Khan, said about 200,000 refugees were on the move throughout the country. He and other UN officials warned of hostility towards returning refugees. A UN military spokesman in Kigali, Lieutenant Kent Page, said he had seen them whipped and stoned by civilians and soldiers.

In Geneva, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said the Rwandan government had reported that at least nine returning refugees had been killed and 1,100 had been locked in a bank in the village of Ngenda. The building is supposed to hold 500 people. Many returning refugees were in bad condition, the spokesman said. Some had machete wounds, others had been stoned or beaten.

Mr Khan said some 70 per cent of the refugees were expected to stream into four villages. Some 10,000 arrived yesterday in one, Gitarama. "The government is conscious of the fact that there is going to be a huge problem in terms of food and water," Mr Khan said. "There is also a question of hostility."

At Kibeho, a standoff continued between soldiers and about 600 men, women and children who were refusing to leave a school. Some were hard- line Hutus who have the most to fear from the army. Others were apparently being held against their will as human shields, Benedict Giaever, a UN Rwanda Emergency Organisation field officer, said. "There is a very hard core inside the building with weapons and grenades and they are trying to persuade the other people not to leave."

Tutsi soldiers have cut off food and water to the camp. A Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA) officer said: "At the moment we feel there is no need to use force but we have enough firepower should the need arise." The International Committee of the Red Cross was mediating yesterday between the RPA and the last Hutus, who want free passage to refugee camps in Zaire.

Aid workers and witnesses said last weekend's slaughter was unprovoked. Survivors said the UN should have done more to stop the violence, which happened within sight of 200 UN peace-keepers.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
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: 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...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 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'