In October 1996, more than one million Rwandan Hutu refugees, displaced by the 1994 Rwandan genocide, were forced to move from UNHCR refugee camps in Zaire. Camouflaged in their number were the feared Interahamwe, 70,000 Hutu militia who led the killings of moderate Hutus and 800,000 Tutsi in Rwanda two years before. As the refugees and Interahamwe moved towards Rwanda the Interahamwe killed Zairean villagers and kidnapped children to provide human shields.
In their way were people of north-eastern Zaire, among them the Banyamulenga of Tutsi heritage. The Zairean government has often discriminated against these people. With the expected movement of the Hutu Interahamwe killers the Zairean Tutsis prepared to defend themselves.
The clash came when the Hutu Interahamwe and the Zairean army were routed by the Zairean Tutsis. The Zairean Tutsi led rebel army is known as AFDL, the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire. As the Zairean Tutsi rebels took control of more and more of north-eastern Zaire, the Rwandan Hutu refugees were divided into different streams. Some of the refugees stopped and waited and when the Zairean Tutsis permitted them to move they walked back into Rwanda. Other refugees still driven by the Interahamwe fled west to Central Zaire. As they moved, Interahamwe killers killed hundreds of Zairean people along the way.
The defeated Zairean army fled inland through towns like Bunia, and the villages of Boga and Nyankunde. As they went they looted. This is the area where the Anglican Church of Zaire has been active working in hospitals, water projects and schools. The people of Zaire were caught up in the long-ongoing tragedy of Rwanda.
In Boga the Archbishop of Zaire, the Most Revd Patrice Njojo, had to go into the bush along with the population of the town of Boga, after the town and the headquarters of the Church were devastated by the Zairean army. The fighting continued over the Christmas period. Rebels entered Nyankunde on 20 December and later the town was bombed by Zaire military. Bunia became a battleground on Christmas Eve and was eventually taken by the rebel Tutsi army.
The Archbishop has now returned to Boga. At the time of going to press it is believed that the Tutsi-led rebel army is now in control of Boga and Bunia and all the main towns in the East and they are closing in on Aru. The Archbishop has been advised by the rebel commanders that no expatriates should return to these areas for the time being.
CMS asks for people to continue to pray for the Church in Zaire and for courage and wisdom for its leaders.