Makeshift camps were set up in Shabunda and around Kisangani. The refugees who reached the Kisangani region in late March and early April were in an appalling condition. Diarrhoea, malnutrition, malaria, as well as severe foot and leg injuries were widespread.
From early 1997 the ADFL attacked and emptied those new camps, reportedly killing thousands of people. Large numbers fled into the forest and thousands attempted to return to Rwanda on foot. Many times since October 1996, ADFL forces had prevented relief organisations from bringing humanitarian aid to the refugees.
In other instances, they had clearly used humanitarian aid as a bait to force the refugees out of the forests - and eliminate them more easily. To MSF it appeared that Kabila troops were deliberately following a policy of extermination of the refugees, including women and children.
According to an MSF estimation, at the end of May 1997, some 190,000 refugees had still not been localised, scattered in the forest and largely inaccessible to humanitarian organisations.
Mobutu was overthrown by Kabila's forces on the 17th of May, 1997; Zaire then became the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
© Kadir van Lohuizen
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I cannot say that this repatriation was voluntary, because the refugees didn't really know the situation in Rwanda - when we would land in Kigali and they would see that there were only Tutsis on the ground, they were surprised and shocked.