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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rwandans Brace for Siege From Zaire Army

KIBUMBA CAMP, Zaire -- Rwandan refugees in eastern Zaire stocked up on food and water Friday before Zairean troops cordon off two camps to pressure them to return.


"We'll take food and water and sit in our tents," said Izai Bariyanga next to a stall piled high with passion fruit and bananas in Kibumba camp five kilometers from the border with Rwanda.


This tent city of 190,000 people was tense with residents waiting to hear by radio of the start of the Zairean operation to prompt the 1 million Rwandan refugees in Zaire to go home.


The main market in the teeming camp was busy and some refugees said they were hoarding what food and water they could afford as they feared Zairean soldiers would besiege them.


The refugees are members of Rwanda's Hutu majority who fled in 1994 during civil war and the genocide of up to a million Tutsis and Hutu moderates butchered by Hutu troops, militiamen and mobs.


Rwanda's government says it will screen all male returnees to investigate whether they were involved in the genocide. Zaire told the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, or UNHCR, that it planned to "administratively close" Kibumba and Kashusha camp to the south to revive flagging voluntary repatriation.


Asked what he understood "administratively close" to mean, UNHCR spokesman Fernando del Mundo in Geneva said:


"The idea is to deploy soldiers around the camps to prevent movements in and out of the camps and to close down commercial activity inside the camps and to maintain law and order. Troops are not going to enter the camps to drive out the people ... but we don't want the refugees to work in Goma and have false hopes that they will stay there forever," Del Mundo added.


Western donors footing the bill for the two million Rwandan refugees in Zaire, Tanzania and Burundi want them to go home.