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Ogata condemns spiral of violence in Burundi

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Ogata condemns spiral of violence in Burundi

7 January 1998

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Mrs. Sadako Ogata, today condemned the escalating cycle of violence in Burundi, saying it had major implications for hundreds of thousands of returnees and refugees.

Her statement followed an armed attack on Tuesday in Maramvya village in Bujumbura province which caused around 8,000 civilians to flee. They included around 3,000 survivors of last week's massacre at the nearby village of Rukaramu, which left more than 150 people dead. UNHCR today sent an assessment mission to the area.

"These attacks are aimed at destabilizing areas where thousands of people have returned and are trying to restart their lives," Mrs. Ogata said. "UNHCR is deeply concerned about the implications for some 170,000 returnees it assists in Burundi and the 200,000 Burundi refugees it cares for abroad. The current cycle of violence severely jeopardizes returnees' security and the refugees' ability to return."

Aid workers, including UNHCR staff, were unable to reach Maramvya on Tuesday to check for casualties, but met several wounded villagers on the road leading to the area, a few kilometres from the capital's airport. Today's assessment mission is aimed at locating those who fled the village and establishing what assistance is needed.

UNHCR had already been providing aid, including blankets, jerry cans and high protein biscuits, for the survivors of the Rukaramu massacre. That attack also caused some 2,000 returnees to flee from UNHCR's Gatumba transit centre a few kilometres away. They have since returned to the site.

In expressing sympathy to the victims' families, the High Commissioner said "Innocent civilians are clearly the targets. As in the attacks on Congolese refugees in Rwanda, most of the victims are women and children who are being chased further and further from their homes."