In the very heart of Africa, a refugee crisis of massive proportions grows more complicated by the month.
In the very heart of Africa, a refugee crisis of massive proportions grows more complicated by the month. Since the spring of last year, more than 100,000 Hutu tribesmen have fled the tiny country of Burundi -- and persecution by the ruling Tutsi minority. Refugees are still pouring out of Burundi at a rate of 3,000 a month.
More than half the refugees headed for Tanzania, where there are vast unpopulated areas. Thirty-five thousand are now in Zaire and the remainder went to Rwanda, where the trouble developed more than ten years ago.
In Colonial days, Rwanda and Burundi were one country. The Tutsis were rich and powerful: the Hutus poor and down-trodden. With independence in Rwanda, however, the Hutus found themselves in the majority and hit out a their former masters. From 1961 to 1964, more than 180,000 Tutsis were driven from Rwanda. An unknown number were massacred.
At the time of independence in Burundi the Tutsis were in the minority, but retained political power. There were signs of unrest last year and more than 100,000 Hutus were slaughtered.
The organised killing now appears to be over -- but the refugees continue to pour out of Burundi. The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has already spent more than three million dollars (GBP 1.2 million sterling). Fortunately, Burundi's neighbours, notably Tanzania, have welcomed the refugees, who are moved away from border areas as soon as possible to avert further tension.
The United Nations and other relief organisations have organised huge settlements, where the refugees are given plots of land, and basic necessities. Food is also provided for the first few months, until the refugees' own crops are harvested.
The first and largest settlement -- at Ulyankuku -- has reached its full capacity of 30,000 refugees. However, more centres are under construction and relief organisations are currently looking for a new sits to absorb the 10,000 people still in the frontier region.