Violence ran unchecked in the teeming refugee camps along the Rwandan border Friday, worsening tensions that have seen angry mobs chase off aid workers.
"We have these spontaneous lynchings" among the refugees, said Ruth Marshall, a spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees in Geneva. "It's becoming impossible."In the Mugumba camp alone, one refugee was beaten to death and two others injured in separate incidents, she said. The victims were set upon by other refugees and accused of being spies for the Rwandan Patriotic Front, the Tutsi-led rebel group that overthrew Rwanda's Hutu-led government in July.
"One woman, along with her two children, was rescued from the crowd by our staff and repatriated to Gisenyi in Rwanda," Marshall said. A man also was saved by U.N. officials, but a woman was beaten to death.
In Goma, Hutu thugs and militiamen hacked and stoned to death a woman refugee in Naginda camp, accusing her of being a spy for Tutsis, U.N. spokesman Ray Wilkinson said Friday.
"There was a mini-witch hunt going on for alleged Tutsi spies in the camps," Wilkinson said.
He said in two separate incidents, people were accused of being Tutsi spies and were beaten up by Hutu refugees. UNHCR officials who were nearby managed to rescue those victims, Wilkinson said.
Elsewhere, aid workers fixing water systems in camps around Bukavu were forced to flee after rumors circulated that they were poisoning the refugees.
"What is alarming is there seems to be a pattern of incidents in Goma and here that threatens aid workers," said Kris Janowski, UNHCR spokesman in Bukavu.
Tensions are also rising at camps in Goma, a Zairian border town 60 miles north of Bukavu, where an estimated 850,000 Rwandan refugees are sheltered.
"In just about every camp now, there are daily murders," Wilkinson said. "Tension is rising in all the camps. Aid workers are very concerned about the level of violence, and they fear getting engulfed in the violence."
Wilkinson said efforts to get Zaire to help provide security for aid workers had been unsuccessful. Aid workers have asked for protection by U.N. peacekeepers, but that would require Security Council approval and no action has been taken.