More than 2,000 Rwandan refugees came out of the hills of the Masisi region into the nearby town of Sake Tuesday, telling of attacks by local men.
Aid workers distributed high-energy biscuits to the refugees as they lined the road on the outskirts of the tiny Kivu province town, 12 miles west of Goma. The refugees fled Katale camp in eastern Zaire over a month ago.The refugees arriving in Sake said there were many more behind them and aid agencies believe the latest influx could herald a second wave of refugees going home to Rwanda, following the estimated 600,000 who have returned since Nov. 15.
The road to Sake was opened to foreign aid workers and journalists Tuesday for the first time in days, after having been closed by the Zairean rebels who control the area.
"It took me a long time," said a one-legged man wearing cut-off jeans and a Frank Zappa T-shirt, propping his stump on his crutch as he nibbled at a biscuit. "You know, the roads of the Masisi were not made for those like me."
The smell of rotting bodies blew over the line, as people edged their way toward waiting trucks. In a hole in the volcanic rock 20 yards from the road lay the naked, decomposing corpse of a man.
His arms had been tied with rope and one of them had been cut off at some point in the fighting and reprisals of the past month. The hacked-off limb lay next to the corpse.
Refugees arriving in Goma said there were "many thousands" behind them coming out of the Masisi and other groups were said to be heading north from Bukavu to the south of Lake Kivu.
The refugees fled the camps to escape fighting between the Zairean army, Zairean rebels and Rwandan Hutu extremists.