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Tuesday, 5 November, 2002, 16:05 GMT
Hutu arrests in DR Congo capital
Burundian refugees
Thousands have found refuge in the DRC

Dozens of Hutu residents of Kinshasa have reportedly been wrongfully arrested over the last two months, Rwandan and Burundian nationals living in the Congolese capital say.

The move comes after the Congolese Government banned a Rwandan Hutu political movement from operating in DR Congo, and sent some of its leaders to Kigali.

Under the terms of a peace deal signed in July between Rwanda and DR Congo, Kinshasa pledged to help repatriate the thousands of Interahamwe and Rwandan ex-army soldiers in DR Congo.

Many have served in the Congolese army, and Kinshasa has disarmed and placed nearly 2,000 of them in an army camp.

Ethnicity

Hutu residents in Kinshasa say the people arrested are mainly refugees, including women, picked up on the sole grounds of their ethnicity.

One man who asked not to be identified told me he was arrested on 13 October. The policemen asked him if he was Rwandan, then took him to Kinshasa's Kokolo military camp.

Rwandan Hutu refugees
Some Rwandan Hutus are returning voluntarily

He was tied up and locked in a lorry container.

He was told by soldiers that he was going to be sent to Rwanda since he was a Hutu.

The man, who is from Burundi, has refugee status. Fortunately he was able to contact the United Nations refugee agency, the UNHCR, and was freed.

He said that all Rwandan and Burundian refugees are now too afraid to leave their homes.

A leader of the Burundian community in Kinshasa says he was also sent to Kokolo camp.

There, he claims he saw dozens of arrested Hutus. Some were indeed soldiers - Kinshasa has promised Kigali to repatriate all Rwandan soldiers and Interahamwe from DR Congo - but most were civilians, including women.

A Rwandan refugee, who also asked not to be named, said 50 such civilians had been arrested.

Many are trying to get the UNHCR to help them.

Government denial

The agency has not commented on the arrests, but a UN official confirmed that the government was carrying out what he called "a large operation in Kinshasa" to track down Hutus.

However, Human Rights Minister Ntumba Luaba denied the claims, saying the government was doing its best to protect Hutu refugees.

Rwandan troops
Rwanda wants to stop infiltration by Hutu rebels

Last week the UNHCR criticised Kinshasa for the way it repatriated 10 Rwandan politicians to Kigali.

The leaders of the Democratic forces for the liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) were put on a plane to Rwanda, which they thought was going to South Africa.

The men were all claiming political asylum.

The next day the government said that more than 1,000 FDLR Rwandan soldiers escaped from their military camp in southern DR Congo after fighting their way past Congolese troops.

The FDLR soldiers were all awaiting repatriation to Rwanda. Their whereabouts are now not known.


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See also:

26 Oct 02 | Africa
25 Oct 02 | Africa
24 Oct 02 | Africa
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