Hutus keep on killing Tutsis in Goma camp: Robert Block in Goma finds Rwanda's genocidal conflict is being carried over to refugee camps in Zaire

Robert Block
Tuesday 26 July 1994 23:02 BST

ON THE shores of Lake Kivu in Zaire, set against a magnificent backdrop of volcanoes, there is a small compound of white tents surrounded by barbed wire. If it were not for the blue United Nations flag flying over the site, a casual observer might think that the place was a prison camp, instead of a haven for refugees. But there is really not much difference. The residents of the Kituku camp are Tutsis, who dare not leave the enclosure for fear of their lives.

The Hutu war against the Tutsis has not stopped. It has followed the refugees, who fled to Zaire to escape the conflict in Rwanda. Amid an epidemic of cholera and an acute shortage of food and clean drinking water, Hutus in Goma still find time to harass the small camp of Tutsis in the city. Most of the refugees in Kituku are survivors of an orchestrated campaign by Rwanda's former extremist Hutu government to exterminate the Tutsi minority.

According to the refugees and staff at the camp, soldiers of the defeated Rwandan army leave their own refugee centre almost daily for the short walk to Kituku, and wait outside the barbed wire for their chance to strike.

On Saturday two Tutsis from the camp of 6,000 left the enclosure to collect some firewood. Former soldiers jumped on them and beat them with clubs and stones. One Tutsi was almost beaten to death. The other escaped with cuts and bruises. At least one refugee has been killed, refugees in the camp said.

'When they go looking for water or leave to go fishing sometimes they fight. This happens. This is normal because they have been in conflict in their country for so long,' said John-Bosco Musana, a Zairean official from the Catholic relief agency Caritas, which runs Kituku along with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

Mr Musana's remark did not meet with the refugees' approval. 'There is nothing normal about being attacked when you go shopping or leave to get wood or go fishing,' said Elie Niyongira, one of the refugees.

The reason why the refugees are fearful became clear yesterday. A group of men in Rwandan military uniforms milled around, outside a thatched market stall near the perimeter of the camp, smoking cigarettes and watching Tutsi refugees. 'You see them there. They are waiting for us,' said Emanuel Nkobana, a former truck driver from Kigali.

Relief agencies, including the International Committee of the Red Cross, are concerned about the attacks, and have complained to the Zairean authorities. A few Zairean soldiers now patrol the area but the refugees said this does little to dissuade their Hutu tormentors.

The continuing attempt of the Hutus in Zaire to attack the Tutsis underlines what many relief workers on the ground have been saying for some time: 'A humanitarian response to the refugee crisis in eastern Zaire without any accountability for the slaughter of innocents in Rwanda only reinforces the belief among the perpetrators that the murder of an estimated 500,000 Tutsis and Hutu moderates was justified.

'This is the problem. Feed the soldiers who committed the crimes without any tangible efforts for justice and they will only go back to what they were doing before. They are still committed to the idea of genocide,' one British relief worker said. The harassment at Kituku may also be due to the fact that, compared to the sprawling refugee camps around Goma, where 1.2 million Hutus live in squalor amid disease and death, the Tutsi camp near Lake Kivu is a paradise.

According to Mr Musana, the cholera and dysentery which have killed an estimated 13,000 Hutus since they fled to Goma nearly two weeks ago, has not touched Kituku. The camp, set up before the Hutus fled to Zaire, has a water treatment system set up by Oxfam. The camp is a model of organisation.

The aid workers believe the reason why Hutus still attack Tutsis is because they still believe the Tutsis are their enemies.

'There is nothing wrong with feeding the distressed, but the international community also has to arrest those responsible for the crimes committed in Rwanda if it doesn't want to reinforce the belief among the Hutus that the genocide of the Tutsis was justifiable,' said James Fennell, the emergency relief co-ordinator for Care International.

As for the Tutsis in Kituku, there is little talk about demands for justice. 'Just tell the world that we want to go home,' one refugee said.

(Photograph omitted)

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