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Rwandan Involvement Seen In Zaire Refugee Camp Attacks

By Stephen Buckley
The Washington Post
BUJUMBURA, Burundi

Fighting in eastern Zaire between armed Tutsis and the Zairian military, as well as recent attacks on refugee camps, appear to have been orchestrated by a Rwandan government weary of a two-year-long crisis at its borders, according to political analysts.

Analysts and aid workers, stressing that they have no direct evidence, suggested that the Rwandan government is trying to goad 1.1 million Rwandan refugees in Zaire into dismantling their camps - something the United Nations and Western governments have been unable to do since the refugee crisis began in July 1994.

The Rwandan refugees - almost all of them members of the country's dominant Hutu ethnic group - fled to Zaire after a Tutsi rebel force toppled a Hutu-led government whose campaign of tribal slaughter claimed the lives of an estimated half-million Rwandans, most of them Tutsis. In the ensuing two years, the teeming refugee camps around Goma, Zaire, have provided a haven for the leaders of the Rwandan genocide and allowed them to stage cross-border raids against the Tutsi-led government that replaced them in Kigali.

Tutsis account for 14 percent of the population of both Rwanda and Burundi; in addition, there are an estimated 200,000 Tutsis in Zaire, known as the Banyamulenge, who have been engaged in sporadic fighting with the Zairian. Analysts say the Rwandan military has been training the Banyamulenge for more than a year, ever since the Zairean government officials began seeking to expel them.

In essence, analysts said, tensions between Tutsis in Zaire and the military there provided the perfect opportunity for Rwanda's government to solve its own crisis, and for Burundi, which is also run by a Tutsi-controlled army, to neutralize a Burundian Hutu rebel force operating for two years out of Zaire, near Uvira.

The fighting inside Zaire between the Banyamulenge and the military "opened the door to the Rwandans, who are happy for the chance to clear away the refugee problem on their doorstep," said Alison DesForges, a human rights worker and regional analyst who has studied Rwanda for three decades.

Recent attacks on the camps around the Zairian town of Goma - where most of the 1.1 million refugees live - are being carried out by Rwandan soldiers, analysts and aid workers said.

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This story was published on Tuesday.
Volume 116, Number 54.
This story appeared on page 3.

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