Men mad with killing drown nation in blood: Aid organisations speak of genocide in Rwanda

THE MAN cowered on the floor, almost naked, whimpering with pain and terror like a beaten dog, blood dripping from a wound above one eye. His wife sat impassively beside him, silent with shock. She shifted her headscarf to reveal a huge bullet hole in her forehead.

'These are the first Rwandans to cross today,' said the young Burundian woman at the border post. 'We let them in, but we can't help them. Can you take them to hospital?'

Aid workers drove the injured couple to the tiny provincial hospital at Kayanza, where local staff and the Red Cross are struggling to treat 450 seriously wounded and sick refugees. Most of the injured, including children, have machete, bullet or grenade wounds. Medical teams say many have had their fingers sliced off, or been hacked in the back of the neck.

Three weeks after the plane crash that killed the presidents of Rwanda and Burundi and triggered violence throughout Rwanda, refugees and the last few foreigners to leave the country tell stories of unceasing horror. Bands of young men mad with killing, some with banana fronds tied around their heads as masks, are burning villages and murdering tens of thousands of people.

Refugees arriving in Burundi say bodies are piled high at arbitrary checkpoints on the road south out of Rwanda's second city, Butare, and that the number of people crossing the border is small compared to those killed on the way. The International Committee of the Red Cross, says 100,000 or more people are dead.

The refugees are from the region's minority Tutsi tribe. They say that the massacres are carried out by militia known as 'Inherahamwe', who are drawn from the majority Hutu tribe, and taking orders from the military, police and local government officials known as 'Bourgmestres'. Foreigners who have lived in Rwanda for decades confirm that the Bourgmestres and eminent local Hutus are behind the killings.

'They're killing all the Tutsis,' said Antime Gusana, a teacher from Runyinya, west of Butare, who fled into Burundi with his wife and four children. 'We hid high up in the hills, but they chased us out. The police and armed gangs came for us with grenades and guns. I saw the local brigadier and even the Bourgmestre among them.'

Although Rwanda has had a Hutu-dominated government since independence, Tutsis, the traditional aristocracy of the region, remain a social elite. Politicians and the military are able to manipulate Hutu peasants, whose resentment of the Tutsis has smouldered for years.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees says that 40,000 Rwandans have managed to cross the border into Burundi. On Friday, 250,000 Rwandans poured into Tanzania in the fastest exodus UNHCR staff have ever seen.

'I fear we won't see a lot more coming now,' said Maurice Herson of Oxfam. 'I think it's unlikely that many more will have survived the violence. In addition, people have been hiding for nearly three weeks, probably without food or shelter, so the chances of many surviving that are slim.'

Oxfam has described the killings in Rwanda as genocide. Hutu politicians opposed to the late president Juvenal Habyarimana were targeted in the first few days after the plane crash, which has yet to be satisfactorily explained. But now the killings seem to be directed purely against Tutsis. Rwanda's Tutsi population is estimated at about 800,000.

In the Rwandan capital, Kigali, fighting between government troops and rebels of the Rwanda Patriotic Front continues, despite UN efforts to arrange a ceasefire. The RPF, a largely Tutsi force that was based near the border with Uganda, is reported to control much of northern Rwanda and part of the capital, Kigali.

Rwandan government radio is blaming the RPF for the massacres, though the RPF has not reached the south where many of the atrocities are being committed. Eye-witnesses report that the RPF has killed civilians in Kigali, but the rebels say that they are targeting only Inherahamwe.

The authorities in Burundi are welcoming Rwandan refugees, but fear violence will spill over the border. Burundi has the same ethnic mix as Rwanda, and an even bloodier history of coups and massacres. The army has always been dominated by Tutsis, and until last June's election of a Hutu president, Melchior Ndadaye, the Hutu majority had no power.

Last October a failed coup, in which President Ndadaye was assassinated, unleashed a wave of ethnic killings in the countryside. Tutsis gathered in camps inside Burundi, protected by the army, while more than half a million Hutus fled to Zaire, Tanzania and Rwanda.

The violence in Rwanda has driven about 150,000 Burundian Hutu refugees back over the border in the past three weeks. Many are still afraid to return to their homes, so they have gathered in camps - refugees in their own country.

Burundi's politicians have to tread a careful line between the Tutsi army, whose co-operation they need to prevent a coup, and their mass of Hutu supporters. On Thursday night, the army shelled the suburb of Kamenge in the north of the capital, where Hutu extremists had been resisting the military's attempts to disarm them. Several thousand civilians who had been trapped in Kamenge managed to flee, and are now staying in a makeshift camp in a sports stadium in the centre of Bujumbura.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll as Agnes Brown in the 2014 Mrs Brown's Boys Christmas special
tvCould Mrs Brown's Boys have taken lead for second year?
Arts and Entertainment
Madonna is not in Twitter's good books after describing her album leak as 'artistic rape and terrorism'
music14 more 'Rebel Heart' tracks leaked including Pharrell Williams collaboration
Arts and Entertainment
Jack O'Connell stars as Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie's Unbroken
film review... even if Jack O'Connell is excellent
peopleIt seems you can't silence Katie Hopkins, even on Christmas Day...
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketing Controller (Financial Services)

£70000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager/Marketi...

Day In a Page

A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all