In wake of massacre, UN moves Congolese refugees further into Burundi

19 August 2004

At a memorial service in Geneva for the nearly 160 Congolese refugees killed in Burundi's Gatumba transit centre last weekend, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees denounced the attack as an "appalling massacre of innocent civilians" and announced that the survivors were being relocated away from the tense border.

"We have to relocate these people - it is not safe in the area," Ruud Lubbers said yesterday of the 20,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) who have fled to Burundi since ethnic violence broke out in DRC's South Kivu Province in June.

On Monday, the Burundi Government offered the UN refugee agency a camp location in Giharo in southeastern Rutana Province, far from the Gatumba transit camp, which is 15 kilometres outside Bujumbura and near to the DRC border town of Uvira.

Gatumba camp has been closed and its 860 refugees relocated to a nearby school, UNHCR said. Some of the refugees moved to Bujumbura on their own.

Before the massacre, UNHCR had begun to move refugees from transit centres to Gasorwe camp in northern Burundi, but Gasorwe already was sheltering 8,000 refugees who had fled DRC years earlier.

Most of the Banyamulenge, or Congolese ethnic Tutsi, massacre victims were women and children shot dead and burnt in their shelters. About 100 survivors were wounded in by the bullets and grenades which rained on the camp during the night.

Security has been increased in the two other transit centres at Karurama and Rugombo, UNHCR said.


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