Letter: Rwanda and Burundi slide towards a new disaster

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The Independent Online
Sir: The Great Lakes region of Africa is on the verge of another human catastrophe, and it is quite clear that the international community has learnt nothing from the Rwanda experience.

Aid workers in Burundi fear that the country is on the verge of an explosion of violence. Civil war rages in the countryside between the ruling Tutsi military and the Hutus who have been "cleansed" from the capital, Bujumbura. Approximately 100,000 people (Amnesty International) have been killed there in the past two years.

In the refugee camps of Zaire and Tanzania refugees planning to return home are intimidated by Hutu militia members. Propaganda adds to the climate of fear. In Zaire the government has mobilised troops to exert pressure on the refugees to return home by ringing the camps and ordering an end to all commercial activity.

It is incumbent on the international community to lend its weight to the Rwandan authorities in their attempts to rebuild their justice system, bring to trial those guilty of crimes of genocide, to rebuild their country and to instill confidence returning refugees and their hopes for a new future. Until there is a fully functioning justice system in Rwanda its people living outside its borders will not return home.

John O'Shea


Goal [relief and development agency]

Dun Laoghaire, Co Dublin