Deaths Reported as 250,000 Refugees Evicted From Rwanda Camps
NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) _ The roads of southwest Rwanda were jammed with refugees Thursday as government troops forced hundreds of thousands of people to abandon the camps that sheltered them during last year’s war.
Margherita Amodeo, a spokeswoman for the U.N. Children’s Fund, said an undetermined number have died in the chaotic exodus that began Tuesday.
``The situation is pretty bad. People are not getting enough food and water,″ Ms. Amodeo said by telephone from the Rwandan capital, Kigali.
Rwandan soldiers closed the largest camp at Kibeho late Tuesday and began closing several others on Wednesday. In all, about 250,000 people were being forced to return home, Ms. Amodeo said.
Most refugees are Hutus, who feared reprisals from ethnic Tutsi rebels for the massacres of about 500,000 people that began a year ago. Most of the massacre victims were minority Tutsis.
Ismael Diallo, a U.N. spokesman, said the United Nations had provided 28 trucks to drive people home and was sending 100 more to the camps Friday.
Still, many refugees set off on foot, since most lived in towns and villages in the region.
Others lingered at the camps waiting for handouts of food and water. Supplies were delayed because all roads into the camps were packed with refugees moving out.
Diallo said Gen. Guy Tousignant, the U.N. force commander, visited the camps Thursday and expressed concern about the humanitarian situation. He said the refugees were calm, but badly needed more food and water.
Dan Toole, the UNICEF representative in Rwanda, said he feared many refugees would die over the coming days from poor sanitation and lack of medical care, food and water.
``Approximately 125,000 people are massed in small areas within the Kibeho, Ndago, Munini and Kamana camps without access to food, water or shelter,″ the Red Cross said it a statement. ``The humanitarian situation could deteriorate extremely quickly.″
The refugees fled last July when the Tutsi-led Patriotic Front swept south in the final stages of its victory over the former Hutu government.
French troops set up a protection zone for them in the southwest, but withdrew from Rwanda last August.
Since then, the new Tutsi-dominated government has been trying to return refugees to their homes, along with 2 million Hutu refugees in camps in neighboring countries.
But Tuesday’s eviction from Kibeho came suddenly, with soldiers firing in the air. Ten people were trampled to death in the ensuing panic.