Six hundred Rwandan children are camping in a huge warehouse in the
Burundi capital, Bujumbura, after fleeing the southern Rwandan town of
'We left Butare on Sunday at the very last minute, during heavy
shelling,' Alexis Briquet of the Swiss charity, Terre des Hommes, said.
He persuaded French troops in Butare to organise the evacuation and
escort the convoy to the Burundi border.
The children - both Hutu and Tutsi - were at a Terre des Hommes centre
for orphans and children separated from their families.
'On Saturday and Sunday, many people were leaving, bringing to us kids
they were hiding, protecting, Tutsi kids they could not take with
them,' Mr Briquet said.
The extremist Hutu radio station, Radio Libre Mille Collines, has
encouraged the Interahamwe militia to kill Tutsi children. 'To destroy
the big rats (The Rwanda Patriotic Front), you must kill the little
rats,' it says.
The older children are aware of the danger. One Tutsi girl, Diane
Irababuta, aged 13, said her mother had sent her away from Kigali after
the death of President Juvenal Habyarimana, which sparked the
massacres. 'My mother said the Interahamwe were going to kill her, so I
should leave. I walked to Butare, sleeping in the forest. Then a
neighbour told me my mother, father and little sisters had all been
The Burundi government, concerned about ethnic friction within its own
borders, wants to limit the refugees it accepts. Most of the children
will probably be sent to a camp in Zaire.
Aid agencies insist they be registered to ensure they are not spirited
overseas for adoption. When a similar convoy arrived last month,
several families took children without any formalities. 'It was like a
supermarket,' one aid worker said.
Lindsey Hilsum in Bujumbura