'It's an unstoppable wall of people.'
The fighting between Tutsis and Hutus in central Africa has been going on for decades, ever since Belgium lost control of the area in the 1950s. In 1994, ethnic fighting in Rwanda led to the massacre of at least half a million Tutsis and sent more than a million Hutus fleeing to Zaire, Tanzania, and Burundi.
For two years Hutu militants, fearful of reprisals for the massacres, kept the refugees in exile. In October and November 1996, it became a crisis, as the civil war in Zaire, sparked by Hutu-Tutsi fighting, cut off more than half a million Hutu refugees from food and medical supplies.
The situation became desperate. The emissary named by the United Nations to negotiate a cease-fire warned of a possible regional war between Hutus and Tutsis, and another massacre like the one in Rwanda. There was also the threat of epidemic and mass starvation. The world's powers began forming a peace-keeping mission when the rebels in Zaire -- mostly Tutsis -- took over the camps, sending the refugees streaming home.
In December, Tanzania gave its Hutu refugees until the end of the year to return to Rwanda, but many fled in the other direction instead.
In Burundi, Hutu-Tutsi fighting flared all year, leading to the massacre of civilians and toppling the government in July.
For a summary of what happened, click on the subject below:
Zaire: A river of refugees
Tanzania: Forced to go home
Burundi: Tutsis seize power
A brief history 1400-1994
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