HUTU refugees who returned to their homes in Rwanda are fleeing back to camps in Zaire, telling tales of harassment and murder by Tutsis out for revenge, UN officials said yesterday in their first public acknowledgment of Tutsi reprisals against returning Hutu refugees.
The attacks may force the United Nations refugee agency to revamp its plans to repatriate the 1.2 million Rwandan refugees who are now in camps in eastern Zaire.
The UN said at least 500 Hutus have crossed into Zaire in the past four days at one of the four official border gates.
The Hutus fear reprisals from the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front for the widespread massacres of Tutsis by Hutu militias in April and May. The RPF seized power in July, prompting Hutus to flee into Zaire and Tanzania.
Rwanda's new Tutsi-led government has urged the refugees to return, saying there will be no reprisals and promising a government of national reconciliation.
But Lyndall Sachs, spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, says, ``We are starting to see a fairly disturbing pattern emerging of harassment, kidnap, and murder of people by the RPF forces.''
The exiled Hutu government and its army, many of whom are in the Zairian refugee camps, have been trying to stop Hutus from returning to Rwanda. Some would-be returnees have even been killed.
Ousted government officials want to keep the refugees in Zaire, to be used as a bargaining chip in any future negotiation with the new government.