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The Mobutu Years, Refugee Problem
Mobutu, Rwandans, staging areas, ethnic conflict, exiles
In July 1994 refugees from Rwanda began streaming into Zaire because of the ethnic conflict between Hutu and Tutsi in that country. More than 1.3 million Rwandans gathered in camps along Zaire’s eastern border. The Zairian government and the UN struggled to find a way of safely returning the refugees to Rwanda. In February 1995 the UN sent Zairian troops to maintain order in the camps. In August the Zairian government ordered that refugees be forcibly expelled from the camps. After about 15,000 refugees had been forced back into Rwanda, the government halted the operation in response to international pressure. In November 1995 Mobutu attended a summit in Cairo, Egypt, with the presidents of Burundi, Rwanda, and Uganda, and a representative from Tanzania to discuss the situation. The leaders agreed on a plan to encourage the exiles to return to Rwanda, but most refugees resisted being repatriated. The Hutu, who feared reprisals from Rwanda’s Tutsi regime, were particularly resistant. Many camps were controlled by armed Hutu militias made up of former members of the Rwandan army, some of whom had been responsible for genocidal killings in Rwanda. The militias had begun to use these camps as staging areas for raids into their homeland.
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