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Last Updated: Monday, 16 August, 2004, 14:27 GMT 15:27 UK
Burundi survivor tells of massacre
Men carrying one of the victims on a stretcher
The refugees had fled fighting in DR Congo

Pasteur Edouard Ruhanga is one of those who survived the massacre of refugees in Burundi.

More than 150 people were killed, including his sister.

He is a priest with the Great Lakes Evangelical church, normally based in the Democratic Republic of Congo town of Uvira. Like thousands of others, he fled to Burundi, following fighting in June.

Here, he tells BBC News Online what happened:

They came at 2200 on Friday night, when we were resting.

We were surprised to hear some gunshots and saw people coming towards the camp from the direction of DR Congo.

At first, we thought they were robbers come to steal our cows. They started shooting at us, shouting: "Exterminate them".

Map showing location of Gatumba camp
Then we realised they weren't robbers but the militia we had fled from and who wanted to kill us.

It was every man for himself. We couldn't do anything. We were not armed. They started shooting everyone - women, children and the elderly.

They even set fire to our shelters. Many of the corpses are so badly burnt that they cannot be recognised.

My sister's family was right next to me when they were killed. She had four children, including a baby who was breast-feeding. They fired rockets and grenades - even at the children. It was horrible.

They all died in front of my eyes. I was the only survivor.


One of my neighbours had his head cut off with a machete right next to me. Another neighbour was stabbed to death.

I was only saved thanks to God. One of my fellow priests was killed. I was terrified.

Refugees weeping at the sight of a relative killed

I heard them speaking Kinyarwanda from Rwanda, Kirundi from Burundi and Lingala from DR Congo and Swahili from East Africa.

They were shouting in all four languages: "You escaped us before but this time we've got you."

While they were killing, some were chanting "Hallelujah" and beating drums.

That's what the Mai-Mai [Congolese militia] always do.

The Burundian army came to our help later on but it was too late for many of us.

After about 90 minutes, they went back towards the DR Congo, and took some of our colleagues who have not been seen since.

I have never seen any weapons among the refugees here. The camp was run by the UNHCR, which does not allow us to have weapons. Most of the refugees are women and children.

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