|Rwanda: New Bishop appeals for tolerance||More information|
Monsignor Alexis Habiyambere SJ, Bishop of Nyundo in Rwanda's north-east, has denounced so- called Christians who cannot live together with persons of a different ethnicity. He said such people are not worthy to approach the sacraments. The bishop was especially harsh with those who speak one way in public and another in private, in front of children. This attitude was injecting poison "into our youth" he said. Bishop Habiyambere called for unity but warned that reconciliation will not occur as long as blood continues to flow and people see their loved ones die.
Rwanda seems to be in a perpetual cycle of violence and retaliation. Attacks by Hutu rebels are followed by the counter-attacks by the predominately Tutsi army. There is a worrying growing involvement of civilians on both sides of this undeclared war that has plagued Rwanda for four decades. The climax of this 'war' was the 1994 genocide of at least 500,000 minority Tutsis by Hutu soldiers and militiamen. The killings ended only when Tutsi rebels took power in July 1994. They still rule the country.
The human rights group Amnesty International said in August that massacres of civilians by Rwanda troops and the rebel militia had increased since May and it accused the international community of ignoring the slaughter. Amnesty said that during that period more than 2,300 unarmed civilians were estimated killed. Among the victims were Rwandan Hutu refugees who had returned from the former Zaire after their refugee camps were attacked by Tutsi-dominated rebel forces of Laurent Kabila which ousted President Mobutu in May.
Amnesty referred to the western region of Gisenyi where almost a thousand people were killed in June and July. All the killings were attributed by local sources to the Rwandan Army. The human rights group cited six other massacres ranging from 16 to more than 520 people each by government troops or Hutu rebels from May to July.
The Rwandan army has been fighting Hutu insurgents in the Northwest ever since some one million Rwandan Hutu refugees came back from Congo/Zaire late last year. The rebel force consists mostly of soldiers of the former Rwandan government and members of an extremist Hutu militia, the Interahamwe, who carried out the genocide in 1994. After the genocide they escaped with nearly a million Hutu refugees to the former Zaire and returned with them last November, using them as human shields all along. The United Nations says thousands of refugees are missing, and may have been killed by the Congolese soldiers with or without the 'help' of Rwandan soldiers. Congo closed its border with Rwanda last month to make sure the refugees do not return! Other, smaller, mass repatriations occurred along the borders with Burundi and Tanzania.
Since they returned, the rebels have been launching attacks from bases in the heavily forested Virunga mountain range along Rwanda's northern border. In July clashes between the army and the rebels in northern Rwanda left more than 170 people dead, including civilians. Ruhengeri, 40 miles Northwest of the capital, Kigali, has been the site of increasing clashes between the army and rebels in recent months. The recent surge in violence in this part of Rwanda has almost paralysed the region. Soldiers patrol the roads and travel is possible only during daylight hours.
International human rights workers say that hundreds of civilians have been killed in other attacks by the military, often in reprisal for rebel assaults. Human rights groups have accused the Rwandan military of indiscriminate use of force and attacking those it suspects of aiding the rebels.
Hutu rebels attacked a camp housing ethnic Tutsis during the last week of August in the north- western border region of Gisenyi. At least 131 refugees were killed and 30 wounded. Armed with assault rifles, machetes and clubs, the attackers raided Mudende camp during the night, torching tents made of plastic sheeting and opening fire on refugees sleeping inside. Most of the victims were hacked to death with machetes as they slept.
The camp holds more than 8,000 Tutsi refugees who escaped ethnic clashes
in Congo/Zaire in the unstable Masisi region in eastern Zaire over the
past several years. Those who survived the attack fled the camp.
A recent United Nations report has expressed concern about deteriorating conditions in overcrowded prisons and detention centres where the number of prisoners, most of them suspects in the genocide, has risen from 110,000 to 120,000 from the beginning of the year. In one centre in Butare 54 detainees died between June and August due to inadequate hygiene facilities and lack of access to medical care.
massacres of unarmed civilians escalate