Wary Hutus return reluctantly

FA ragged group of some 60 men, women and children were assembled outside the mayor's office in the village of Nyakizu by midday yesterday. Ten months after fleeing their community just 15 miles inside Rwanda's border with Burundi, they had returned home.

It was not a joyous homecoming. All were exhausted and barefoot, some had hastily bandaged head wounds, a few were in very sorry condition.

They had come, said a man with a cut on his scalp, from the displaced people's camp at Kibeho which lies about 30 miles north-west of Nyakizu. Some 2,000 Hutu inmates of the camp were shot and trampled to death there on Saturday and hundreds more were injured, according to figures compiled by the United Nations. Soldiers from the largely Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) are being blamed for the carnage.

The group waited patiently in line yesterday to be registered with the municipal authorities. More than 18,000 Hutus have in recent days returned to Nyakizu from Kibeho and the three other displaced people's camps in the Gikongoro area of south-western Rwanda. Up to a quarter of a million Hutus were living in these camps a week ago; now they are all but empty.

The people who have returned have done so against their will. Having fled ahead of the victorious advance of the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front last year and fearing reprisals, they chose to live in teeming camps monitored by the UN and by international aid agencies. Some of the worst excesses of last year's genocide of more than half a million Tutsis were perpetrated in the south-west.

In the University Hospital at Butare, Rwanda's second city, are some 130 Hutus who have been wounded in recent violence. People are still being admitted with machete and other wounds. In the Mdecins sans Frontires hospital, 90 per cent of the patients being admitted have been shot from behind.

"None of those coming back are being killed or mistreated," insisted Ferdinand Nkurayija, assistant mayor of Nyakizu as the returnees queued up outside his office. Few of those waiting outside seemed to share Mr Nkurayija's certitude. Many were clearly terrified at the prospect of returning to this commune where thousands of Tutsis were slaughtered in the genocide which began just over a year ago.

Those now returning from the camps are assumed to contain a high proportion of killers. Why, if they are innocent, goes the reasoning, were they so scared to come home?

"I've recognised some murderers among the people who've come back in the last few days," said Ernest Rusibukira, one of whose children was murdered in last year's killing. "They will be punished in due course but we won't take our own revenge."

Mr Nkurayija maintained that even those suspected of complicity in the killings are treated fairly. According to hisrecords, 23 returnees were denounced in Nyakizu on Tuesday. Yet, he said, none were taken into custody. They would be allowed to settle in before any action was taken.

Yet behind the offices is a lock-up to which at least one of yesterday's returnees was taken. All requests to talk to those waiting to register were refused.

Near the village church where last year hundreds of Tutsis were butchered, a group of newly arrived Hutus were hiding in an outhouse. They said they could not go home as their properties had been taken over. "The war is not yet over," they said before a soldier's arrival silenced them. "That is why we waited so long to come back."

A woman who had registered was also able to speak away from the prying attentions of the RPA soldiers, who now fill Nyakizu. "We left Kibeho on Sunday after the killing took place," said Bernadette Nyiramaziga, who did not know whether or not her house had been taken. "There were piles of bodies lying everywhere. Many were killed by the soldiers' bullets but others were cut down by machetes and bayonets. We were frightened of leaving but we couldn't stay there either."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
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
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Magento Front End Web Developer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Front End Web Developer is re...

Investigo: management accountant

£250 - £300 per day: Investigo: Growing international marketing business requi...

Recruitment Genius: ORM / Online Reputational Consultant

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ORM Consultant is required t...

Recruitment Genius: Facilities Manager

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading provider of educat...

Day In a Page

Greece elections: In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza

Greece elections

In times like these, the EU has far more dangerous adversaries than Syriza, says Patrick Cockburn
Holocaust Memorial Day: Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears

Holocaust Memorial Day

Nazi victims remembered as spectre of prejudice reappears over Europe
Fortitude and the Arctic attraction: Our fascination with the last great wilderness

Magnetic north

The Arctic has always exerted a pull, from Greek myth to new thriller Fortitude. Gerard Gilbert considers what's behind our fascination with the last great wilderness
Homeless Veterans appeal: Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story

Homeless Veterans appeal

Homeless in Wales can find inspiration from Daniel’s story
Front National family feud? Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks

Front National family feud?

Marine Le Pen and her relatives clash over French far-right party's response to Paris terror attacks
Pot of gold: tasting the world’s most expensive tea

Pot of gold

Tasting the world’s most expensive tea
10 best wildlife-watching experiences: From hen harriers to porpoises

From hen harriers to porpoises: 10 best wildlife-watching experiences

While many of Britain's birds have flown south for the winter, it's still a great time to get outside for a spot of twitching
Nick Easter: 'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

'I don’t want just to hold tackle bags, I want to be out there'

Nick Easter targeting World Cup place after England recall
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore