Violence has erupted at two of the largest camps for Rwandan refugees, leaving two Zairian soldiers and one refugee dead and underscoring the tensions between the million-plus Rwandans who have fled here and the Zairian troops resentful of the influx.
In an incident on Wednesday, refugees stoned to death a Zairian soldier trying to steal a car from the Kibumba camp, the largest refugee settlement, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees. At the Katale camp Thursday, refugees with machetes hacked to death a Zairian soldier suspected of extorting money and property from Rwandans.Food distribution was suspended at the Katale camp following the machete attack, said Panos Moumtzis, the UNHCR spokesman here. He said the refugees who killed the soldier stole his two rifles and still have the weapons. He said relief workers were worried about their safety with the weapons still in the camp.
The violence continued Friday when about a dozen Zairian soldiers began breaking into refugee huts at the Kibumba camp, ostensibly to search for weapons. The soldiers began stealing radios and mattresses from the refugees when an angry crowd formed. The soldiers then shot to death an elderly refugee and wounded three others, including a 6-year-old, Moumtzis said.
Moumtzis said the UNHCR has asked Zairian authorities - or what passes for authority in this country where most administrative structures have collapsed - to increase security on the perimeter of the camps and rein in Zairian soldiers who have terrorized the refugees since they first crossed the border en masse last month.
Moumtzis said he had witnessed Zairian troops looting possessions from Rwandan refugees at the height of the exodus into Goma. He said that among the favorite items soldiers have looted have been cars refugees brought here.
Moumtzis said tensions remained high at the two affected camps, and relief officials would decide later whether to resume food distribution at the Katale camp.
Earlier this week, Moumtzis said the United Nations had complained to Zairian officials about the behavior of Zairian troops at Goma's airport. The soldiers, armed with rifles and automatic weapons, surrounded planes loaded with relief supplies and helped themselves to some of the aid.
The violence highlights the concern of relief agencies and others that the influx of Rwandan Hutus into Zaire - among them soldiers and militiamen suspected of massacres inside Rwanda - and the presence of the ill-disciplined Zairian troops had created a volatile mix.