IRC Condemns Massacre of Refugees in Burundi; Responds with Aid for Survivors
The International Rescue Committee strongly condemns last week’s massacre of refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo in Gatumba, Burundi and has begun providing emergency aid to survivors of the attack.
The massacre, carried out by armed groups and militia coming from Burundi and DR Congo, targeted Congolese civilians, killing at least 160 and injuring over 100 others on August 13. The majority of victims were women and children who had fled fighting and insecurity in DR Congo’s South Kivu province in June 2004. The massacre has now sparked fears of renewed attacks in this volatile region.
“The IRC is extremely concerned about the safety of these and other Congolese refugees at camps in Bujumbura Rural and Cibitoke Provinces along the border with the DR Congo,” said IRC country director Nathalie Stiennon.
“We urge the Government of Burundi and the United Nations in Burundi to strengthen security and protection measures for refugee populations in accordance with relevant international laws and the UN peacekeeping force mandate in Burundi,” Stiennon added.
To assist the survivors of the atrocity, the IRC has joined forces with other aid organizations on the ground, providing emergency water supplies to three nearby schools where refugees from Gatumba have been temporarily relocated. Three bladders have been installed providing 40 cubic meters of potable water each day to the refugees and the host communities. The IRC is also trucking in large amounts of water to the schools in coordination with partner organization Italian Cooperation. IRC teams are currently evaluating the need for improved sanitation in the schools and will start organizing refugee coordination committees to conduct hygiene promotion campaigns shortly.
Meanwhile, the IRC continues its assistance to 17,000 other Congolese refugees located in the Rugombo and Karurama sites in the Cibitoke Province with emergency water supply and hygiene promotion activities.
According to United Nations refugee agency UNHCR, over 800 refugees were living in Gatumba at the time of the attack. Hundreds more are staying with host communities around the site and in the nearby area of Bujumbura town.
Burundi’s rebel Hutu Forces for National Liberation (FNL) has claimed responsibility for the killings. In addition, several other militia units inside DR Congo have been accused by observers of complicity in the crime. In a bid to prevent more attacks, the Burundian Government on August 16 decided to close its border with DR Congo.
“It is critical that the situation not be permitted to further destabilize the region, undermine the ongoing Burundian and Congolese peace processes and cause more suffering to the innocent,” underscored Nathalie Stiennon.