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Thursday, October 21, 1999 Published at 14:37 GMT 15:37 UK


World: Africa

Mass expulsion from Burundi camp



By the BBC's East Africa correspondent, Martin Dawes

An estimated 11,000 people are being forcibly moved by the Burundian army from a camp run by an American missionary in the capital, Bujumbura.

Johnson's Camp was a haven for many people displaced by the country's ethnic-based conflict.

Early on Thursday, troops and police ordered that homes be dismantled and from all around came harsh metallic sounds as corrugated iron sheets were salvaged from homes and thrown on to the ground.

Streams of people carrying their possessions as best they could left the camp, while armed paramilitary police and troops stood by.

One woman said they had been told to "go back to the place they had come from".

She herself had been in Johnson's Camp for five years ever since, she said, the trouble started.

International criticism

The Tutsi-led Burundian government has alleged that Johnson's Camp has been harbouring Hutu rebels.

It's thought that the army brought forward a planned evacuation of Johnson's Camp because of shootings close to the capital over the past two nights.

The minister of defence, Colonel Alfred Nkurunziza, said that people from the camp would be going to prepared areas where their homes would have water and electricity

Burundi has faced considerable international criticism because of the mass movement of people into what are called re-groupment camps around the capital, while the military conduct operations against rebels.

The UN has just been given updated figures from the government, saying that 304,000 are in such camps and in need of assistance.

But after the murder of two UN personnel and seven local staff last week, aid operations have been suspended and all but the most essential UN staff are being withdrawn.

On Thursday, as he surveyed the wreckage of 30 years work in Burundi, the elderly American missionary Carl Johnson was too upset to speak.

The six-year civil war in Burundi has pitted the mainly Tutsi-dominated army against Hutu rebel groups operating from bases in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Tanzania.

More than 200,000 people - most of them civilians - have died in the conflict.

Several Hutu rebel organisations are trying to oust the government of President Pierre Buyoya - a continuation of a cycle of violence that erupted after the assassination of the country's first Hutu president, Melchior Ndadaye.





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