RWANDA: LAST REMAINING AID WORKERS LEAVE CITY OF BUKAVU



Eng/French/Nat

The last remaining foreign aid workers fled the eastern Zairean city of Bukavu on Monday, as chaos spread and mortar shells exploded on the city.

Associated Press journalists came under fire from Zairean soldiers on the border between Rwanda and Zaire.

The fighting between ethnic Tutsi rebels and Zairean troops has forced up to half a million Rwandan Hutus and Zairean to flee to refugee camps in Rwanda.

Reporters from the Associated Press ran for cover Sunday, as they came under fire in Rwanda.

Television, print and photo journalists ducked for cover as Zairean troops opened fire on the Rwandan border with Zaire.

Sunday’s fighting between Tutsi rebels and Zairean troops defending the provincial capital of east Zaire, forced thousands of refugees to stream towards refugee camps across the Rwandan border.

Another 200-thousand refugees joined the exodus when a barrage of artillery and mortar fire hit Kibumba refugee camp in Zaire’s Goma region.

Zairean refugees living nearby the camp have blamed ethnic Tutsi rebels for the attack.

The violence is a result of a struggle for land and power between ethnic Tutsis and Hutus, that has left hundreds of thousands dead in the last three years in Rwanda and Burundi.

The conflict has now spilled over into Zaire, which is home to many of the refugees.

U-N officials say the developing situation in eastern Zaire could rival the humanitarian disaster of 1994, when hundreds of thousands of Rwandan Hutus fled into Zaire after their compatriots slaughtered 500-thousand Rwandan Tutsis.

Zaire, with the help of some militant Hutu refugees, has expelled and attacked members of an ethnic Tutsi group that has been living in eastern Zaire for at least 200 years.

In response, Tutsis began to fight back last month.

About 1,500 Rwandan refugees and 3,000 Zaireans sought shelter by crossing into northern Rwanda Sunday.

Gisenyi refugee camp in Rwanda — across the border from the Zairean town of Goma — shelters these Zairean refugees.

Relief workers are struggling to provide assistance to an ever increasing camp population.

SOUNDBITE: (English)
There’s nobody at the border point anymore. The ones who were there – they have already crossed into Rwanda. We don’t expect anyone from that side, but of course we might expect somebody from Goma, we just don’t know how many and when.
SUPER CAPTION: Suzanne Nielsen, UNHCR officer

The attack this weekend on the refugee camp in Kibumba was one of the worst in eastern Zaire for two years.

Many hundreds of the fleeing Hutus have arrived at Nkamira camp, 20 kilometres from Gisenyi.

SOUNDBITE: (French)
We left Zaire because military opened fire on the camp. So we escaped and we left our belongings in the camp.
SUPER CAPTION: Mpogazi Nsababera, refugee

Others have found their way to Gisenyi hospital.

SOUNDBITE: (Swahili)
I was at home in Kibumba Camp. We heard firing so I took my children. On the way to Rwanda I was hit by a bullet but I don’t know where the firing came from.
SUPER CAPTION: Nzabarinda Rvabumga, refugee

Speaking in the Rwandan capital of Kigali, Rwandan president Pasteur Bizimungu denied any Rwandan military involvement in Zaire but confessed to “moral support” for the local Zairean Tutsis, called Banyamulenge.

SOUNDBITE: (English)
What I may say categorically is that morally I support those people. Between extermination and fighting I’d choose and I would advise those people to resist extermination.
SUPER CAPTION: Rwandan president Pasteur Bizimungu

In anticipation of an influx of refugees returning to Rwanda, the World Food Program is stockpiling over 60-thousand tons of food in the Rwandan capital.

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