DRC 1993:Thousands of victims of ethnic strife

© Chris Keulen, 1993 Click on image for larger version.
Food was scarce and the health of the displaced people deteriorated rapidly. There were sharp increases in the incidence of malaria, respiratory infections, diarrhoea and dysentery. Medical facilities in the areas rapidly became overburdened as a result of the enormous inflow of new patients. In October, the coup in Burundi and the subsequent outburst of ethnic violence led to the arrival of 80,000 refugees in Zaire. Some of them found refuge with relatives and friends, others stayed in camps around the South Kivu town of Uvira. Interethnic war breaks out in northern Kivu Nurse "In 1993, the Hutus were killing the villagers, burning the houses, attacking people on the road - it was very difficult to move from the village. It was surrounded by the Hutus, and when you would go to the fields, you would meet the enemy who would kill you straight away.We were scared of going to the fields and leaving the children alone at home.We couldn't find salt anymore, it was very difficult to find food to eat. "Many of my relatives were killed either on the road, or in the field. At a given moment, they said that the Hutus were going to enter my village and kill the people - I fled, and was displaced for one year because of the war. Life was very hard, because I had left my village without taking anything." Nurse aid "During the inter ethnic war, the people were killing each other in the forests; some people would flee to the bush in disarray and leave their children behind in the villages - the children were then killed. I saw a woman running with her baby on her back thinking that the baby was still alive - his head had already been cut off. "I lost my own paternal uncle during the war. They had cut off his head and his penis and put his head and his right hand on top of a tree, on the roadside. Guard During the inter ethnic war between the Hunde and the Hutu, all the Hunde population of the area sought refuge in my village. The living conditions were very difficult; we could hardly find food to eat - everybody was pillaging other people's fields. "Some displaced people had made it to our house; others had died on the way, killed with machetes, their houses burnt. my family - my aunt, her husband and her two children. The village where we were before was attacked, all we all hid - the Hutus found and killed them. Patient/war displaced (North Kivu) "During the inter ethnic war in Masisi, between the Hunde and the Hutus, we had to flee our village. Our house was burnt; we managed to escape thanks to the priests of our village, but two of my sisters were not able to escape - they were killed. After that, one of my brothers was forcibly enlisted in Mobutu's army to fight against the Hutus and he died on the battlefield. My whole family has been subjected to pillaging, and several of my relatives have died. There is no one who can help me
"Now I've been displaced again for one year because of the war of the Interahamwe. In the village where I am from, they attacked my house several times. Each time they would ask for food, clothes, cattle; when we refused to give out our goods, they would torture us. Sometimes, if we finally gave something we had hidden, they would stop torturing us. I was tortured twice, together with my husband; they bludgeoned us, and with the butt of their machetes. After the third attack, we decided to leave. "Because of the tortures the Interahamwe inflicted on me, I suffer a lot from the chest; I cannot carry anything heavy, and I hardly can cultivate. My husband also suffers from the torture he has been subjected to; as we are displaced, we had been given a little field, but neither I or him have the strength to cultivate. We eat with difficulty. We live in a little house made of straw that we rent, but we are sometimes chased away from it because we don't have the means to pay the three dollars rent. The house has holes everywhere, and we sleep on reed beds that my husband made. "My whole family has been subjected to pillaging, and several of my relatives have died. There is no one who can help me." Guard "I lost my mother during the inter ethnic war in 1993. At that time, we were living in a village, in N. area; this burnt, many people were killed.We had to flee, leaving behind us our goats, our chicken, everything. My mother went all the way to the village where my sister was living, but the Hutus attacked this village as well and she died. "Since then, the Hutus have been occupying my house and my fields; as of today, I still haven't been able to go back there - the people have refused to leave my field, and there is a law saying that we are not allowed to recuperate the fields we had once abandoned." Patient/, war displaced (North Kivu) "I've been displaced since 1993, when the inter ethnic war broke out in the area.We first fled to T.; but malaria is endemic there, and we had to move again after six months.We always live in insecurity. The Interahamwe attack us frequently - they besieged the village for the last time three months ago, and they burnt our houses. Several times, all my possessions were looted. "Because of that, we frequently have to flee to the forest. There, we build a shelter the best we can, with tarpaulins and branches.We stay there until the situation improves - a few hours, a few days, we never know how long it can last. "In S., I live with my husband and my children. I have already lost six children because of malnutrition; it's a real problem in my village, but people don't recognize it. They think the state of health of the children is due to other things, to sorcery for example. I think that my children's malnutrition is due to malaria that we do not have the means to cure." THE REFUGEE CAMPS IN UVIRA Mechanic "When the war broke out around Butaré, in Rwanda, UNHCR asked the NGOs to build a camp in Uvira, because they knew that the people fleeing from the clashes would move through Burundi towards South Kivu, in Congo. One week after the camp was ready, the refugees arrived en masse from Rwanda and hunger, from thirst, and even from fear - many of them had left their country under shellfire, seeing their companions fall dead beside them, and as soon as they arrived at the camp they would collapse under the weight of the emotions. Every day I would see more than six people dying. "In the camp where the Burundian refugees were, there were constant frictions between the people, especially between the people from the South of Burundi and those from the North; since Burundi had become a republic, the south had always been in power, dominating the north, and in the camp people from these different regions would not get along with each other. "They would kill each other; people would constantly disappear. When we started to ask questions, they told us that there were two groups of young people; one from the North and one from the South, who were eliminating all suspects to be on the other side. Those from the North were particularly mean. Often we didn't understand their objectives, we were not able to have a discussion with them - we didn't know what to do. One day I nearly got killed with machete: one of the expatriates was married to a Tutsi woman and we entered the camp together with her - they surrounded us and threatened to kill us, because they couldn't accept seeing a Tutsi inside the camp."