Associated Press

May 6, 1997

Zaire Rebels Force Refugees Out

KISANGANI, Zaire (AP) -- Ignoring U.N. calls to end the chaotic exodus, Zairian rebels crammed trucks with hundreds of Rwandan refugees, dropped them off with aid workers, and said more trucks were on the way.

The Monday expulsions from rebel territory came a day after 91 refugees were suffocated or crushed to death aboard railway boxcars that the rebels, eager to have the Rwandans leave, had also jammed with refugees.

``I don't even think that when you're dealing with cattle, you treat cattle like that,'' U.N. spokesman Juan Carlos Brandt said in New York. ``This is totally, completely unacceptable.''

Hundreds of refugees were driven out of rebel territory on Monday in three trucks designed to carry no more than 50 people each, Brandt said. Once those trucks were unloaded, it took six U.N. trucks to carry the refugees across the Zaire River to a transit camp near the airport.

The rebels told U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees staff that six more trucks were on the way carrying thousands more refugees -- with no U.N. supervision or control -- to a transit camp holding three times the 2,000 people for which it was intended.

On April 27, rebel leader Laurent Kabila gave the UNHCR 60 days to remove the roughly 80,000 Rwandans in camps in central Zaire -- or else the rebels would do the jobs themselves.

Kabila's forces had agreed to work with the United Nations on an orderly, humane means of transport to the Kisangani airport, from which the refugees are being flown home.

After Sunday's disaster, the U.N. refugee agency told rebels it had suspended use of a narrow-gauge railway to transport the Rwandans out of their disease-ridden jungle camp until control procedures were established.

But the rebels suggested Monday that another train might be on its way, U.N. refugee agency spokesman Paul Stromberg said.

Rushing to keep up with the influx, the United Nations managed to fly home 2,600 people Monday, well over its goal of 2,000 refugees a day.

At the refugee camp, tensions were on the rise again between the Rwandans, aid workers and Zairian villagers.

Two weeks ago, the villagers -- apparently incited and supported by rebel soldiers -- attacked refugee camps strung out south of Kisangani. The villagers killed hundreds of refugees with machetes, sending the rest fleeing into the jungle, survivors say.

Of the 80,000 refugees who had been in the camps before the attacks, about 40,000 remain unaccounted for, Stromberg said. Hundreds of refugees continue to emerge from the dense tropical forest, so weak from disease and hunger they can barely walk.

The refugees are among more than 1 million Hutus who fled Rwanda in 1994 to avoid retribution for the massacre of a half-million minority Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Most of the refugees returned home late last year.