- As more than 150 massacred Tutsi refugees were buried in Burundi, arrangements are made to improve security for refugees. Burundian authorities have agreed to authorise a secure camp away from the Congolese border and the government of neighbouring Rwanda says it may move into Burundi to protect Tutsis if more attacks are reported.
The 150 Congolese civilians, mostly of Tutsi origin, that were massacred at a refugee camp in Burundi on Friday were yesterday buried in an emotional ceremony at the camp. The mass burial service united about 2,000 mourners, including Burundi's President Domitién Ndayizeye, Congo Kinshasa's (DRC) Vice President Azarias Ruberwa - himself a Congolese Tutsi - a Rwandan Minister, UN peacekeepers and camp survivors.
New details are now emerging about the gruesome slaughtering. "Some of the corpses were mutilated and headless," according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR. "Others were burned beyond recognition. Some heads were bashed in. Mothers were killed obviously while trying to protect their children with their bodies."
- Men armed with machetes, automatic weapons, grenades and torches swept into the camp amid the beating of drums and chants of 'Hallelujah', UNHCR added. Some 100 refugees were also wounded. A nearby Burundi army base also came under attack, but a facility for 300 Burundi returnees from the Congo was left untouched.
The worst slaughtering of Tutsis since the immediate aftermath of the 1994 Rwanda genocide has left the Great Lakes region in shock. There are concerns that new genocidal plans are being prepared, as voiced by Rwandan President Paul Kagame this weekend. There are also many indications that the troops responsible for the 1994 genocide - the ex-FAR and Interahamwe militias that still exist in eastern Congo - carried out Friday's massacre.
Calls for improved security for the many refugees of the region, and especially the Tutsis, thus are not left unanswered. UNHCR yesterday announced that it had reached a new agreement with the government of Burundi, which is to authorise a secure camp further away from the border for newly arrived refugees from the Congo. Other security arrangements for the Congolese Tutsis were to follow.
The government of Rwanda, which has the UN's failure to prevent the 1994 genocide in mind, further has made it clear that it will do whatever necessary to prevent new massacres of Tutsis in Burundi. Rwandan Foreign Minister Charles Murigande yesterday evening told media that his country's army would not be stopped by the border with Burundi or Congo if it had to defend itself against new attempts to slaughter Tutsis.
He repeated the many warnings from the Rwandan government regarding the continued existence of armed genocidal militias in eastern Congo that are only waiting for an opportunity to resume the slaughtering of Tutsis in the region. These militias originally had caused Rwanda to militarily intervene in Congo Kinshasa.
In Burundi itself, the conflict between Hutus and Tutsis has resulted in a decade of deadly warfare. A peace process nearly has succeeded in bringing this civil war to an end, but one radical Hutu rebel group, the Forces Nationales de Liberation (FNL), are still fighting the government coalition of former rebels.
The Burundian peace process has included the deployment of African Union (AU) peacekeepers, who in June this year were replaced with a UN peacekeeping mission (ONUB) of some 2,000 troops. The UN peacekeepers however have so far failed to prevent the ongoing warfare between FLN and the Burundian government and were unable to intervene in Friday's massacre. This has led refugees to ask about the feasibility of the entire ONUB mission.
After the massacre, however, the UN is set to become more visible in Burundi. UNHCR already has moved 500 survivors to a nearby school and another 100 went on their own to find accommodation in Bujumbura. "We did everything we can to protect the refugees," said one agency staff member.
- But everything the agency did was not enough in a region where governments have little control over forces that are constantly conjuring the most surreal and outrageous form of evil against the innocent to pursue their objectives, the UN refugee agency added in a news release.
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