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Kabezi camp, about eighteen miles south of Bujumbura, was the largest camp in Bujumbura-rural, with a population of nearly 40,000 people.28 Located on a small hill with no trees or other cover, the camp was baked by the sun during the dry season and swept by storms in the rainy season. For more than nine months, people have lived in makeshift dwellings made from banana leaves, eucalyptus branches, and other locally foraged materials. The fortunate received plastic sheeting from international humanitarian agencies which they used to cover the not very solid roofs. The dwellings, most of them about six by nine feet, were packed together, with narrow passages between the rows. Refuse littered the paths and small rivulets carried waste water and other garbage down the hillside. Each dwelling sheltered up to ten members of a family, all living together in a single, undivided space. Public latrines were hastily dug soon after the camp was established. By May 2000, many were filled to overflowing and no new ones had been dug.

According to residents of the camp, their lives had been very different when they were still in their own homes, free to come and go as they wished. Although there has been military activity in Bujumbura-rural for several years, families had been able to continue growing crops or doing other work to provide for themselves. Many raised chickens, rabbits, goats, or pigs to supplement their diet or to earn a little income. Most lived in small but solid three or four roomhouses, constructed with clay bricks and with sheet metal roofing. Families enjoyed a sense of privacy living in homes surrounded by fields and dispersed over the hillsides, a stark contrast to the indignities of the crowded, filthy camps.

After the first weeks, camp residents were ordinarily permitted to go back to their homes and fields for a few hours once or twice a week. They continued trying to cultivate their fields, but the time at home was too brief to provide for adequate agricultural production. People who were located in camps near roads were the most fortunate because they soon began receiving food to supplement their own produce, as well as clean water and medical help, from international humanitarian agencies. But whenever there was combat in the region, the road was closed and the delivery of these life-sustaining supplies was interrupted. Authorities suspended deliveries of aid for other reasons as well. At Kavumu camp, where thousands depended on food supplied by an international organization, local officials were slow in completing the requisite paperwork in January and early February 2000, so provincial authorities refused to permit deliveries. Residents, who had received their last supplies at the end of December 1999, were in desperate need by the time food was provided again in mid-February 2000.29

Residents of seventeen camps located far from roads received little or no international assistance. Nyambuye camp, located high on a hilltop overlooking Bujumbura, is about a one hour climb on foot from the nearest road. Residents had to carry any food delivered at the road up the hill themselves. They also had to fetch water from the nearest water source, also one hour distant on foot. One widow trying to provide for her four children at Nyambuye concluded, "If you were to go there, you would not believe what you would see. There is a lot of sickness, hunger, and desperation among camp residents."30 A mother of seven indicated her sick two-year-old and said that all the children of his age at Nyambuye were sick with some illness or another. This thirty-five-year-old farmer bemoaned the lack of medical help for her children and her inability to feed her family properly.31

As the weeks stretch into months in the camps, increasing numbers of people-particularly children, the elderly and young mothers-show signs of malnutrition. Medical workers report many more children with the reddish hair, swollen faces, and bloated stomachs that indicate severe malnutrition. With poor nutrition and the unsanitary, crowded conditions of camp life, contagious diseases are widespread, including various intestinal and respiratory diseases. Several outbreaks of cholera have been contained, but the risk of an epidemic is always present.

As the primary care-givers responsible for the welfare of their children, some women have apparently suffered severe emotional and mental stress from watching them suffer. One medical worker with an international humanitarian agency assisting the malnourished in Bujumbura-rural has observed symptoms of severe depression in the women whom she treats or whose children she treats. These women appear to have given up caring about their own health or that of their children and sit for hours staring vacantly off into the distance.32

Reliable statistics on malnutrition, illness, and mortality in the camps are limited, but one experienced medical worker estimated that malnutrition and disease among the people of Bujumbura-rural have increased five fold since the beginning of regroupment in September. A study of mortality in regroupment camps elsewhere in the country concluded that twice as many people died from disease and war-related deaths in the camps as would have died had they stayed in their own homes. When one international agency attempted to keep track of mortality by counting recent graves at a camp near Bujumbura, government authorities refused to allow them to continue the work.33 The soldiers who supervise security in the camps control the movements of residents into and out of the sites just as they determine the comings and goings of humanitarian workers who provide supplies or services. Residents who chafe at such restrictions liken their enforced residence at the camps to being in prison.34

Some people who live in camps near Bujumbura work in the city and are ordinarily permitted to go down the hills to their jobs. But the vast majority are cultivators who need to keep working their fields in order to sustain themselves. It is they who suffer most from military regulations set up to control the movement of people on the hills. They are allowed to work only on those hills designated on a rotating schedule, usually only once or twice a week. They are ordinarily required to go to and from the hill along paths indicated by the soldiers and are permitted to be absent only for a limited number of hours per day. When time for walking to and from the fields is subtracted, there is little time left to do the necessary work. One woman said that she is not allowed to leave the camp before 9 a.m. and must be back by 4 p.m. She needs two hours to reach her land and another two hours to return. This leaves her only three hours to cultivate, too little to produce the food she needs to feed her family. Her four children are suffering from malnutrition and related diseases, a direct consequence she believes of the restrictions on access to her fields. Another woman, a widow with small children, cannot cultivate enough to feed them well; to leave more for them, she limits herself to one meal a day consisting usually of a piece of cassava and a few bananas.35

In most camps, the abashingantahe,36 or representatives of the people, approach military officers in the morning and ask permission for cultivators to leave the camp for their fields. If there has been combat in the area, soldiers ordinarily refuse permission or delay the departure of cultivators. They may also refuse permission simply because camp residents have failed to deliver desired services, as described below.37

Camp residents who returned late from their fields or from working in the city faced rebukes, humiliation, and often blows administered by soldiers with large sticks. The great majority of witnesses interviewed for this report complained of the humiliation and physical abuse meted out to women and men by soldiers who were sometimes much younger than themselves.38

Sometimes soldiers have required residents to pay for the right to leave the site. In one of the most egregious cases reported to Human Rights Watch, a mother was refused permission to leave the camp to take a child with a badly burned hand to a hospital in the city. It took the woman several days to find the necessary money to bribe the soldier into allowing her to leave. By the time she got the child to the doctor, the little girl's hand was so badly infected that the doctor believed it would have to be amputated.39"Insecurity" Before the camps were established, civilians in Bujumbura-rural often risked death, injury, and loss of property as a consequence of the ongoing military conflict. As one witness remarked, "Before we were like hostages between the rebels and the soldiers."40 Relatively few were caught in actual exchanges of fire between FNL and the Burundian forces because civilians fled or hid quickly at the first sound of gunfire. Some civilians were killed by rebels in ambushes of vehicles or because they refused to part with food or other goods demanded. But more were slain bysoldiers who shot civilians because they took them to be rebels or suspected them of helping rebels. Women stated that they risked rape, whether by rebels or by soldiers, particularly while going to fetch water or firewood. According to witnesses, rebels often came at night to ask for food or sometimes to take goats or other small animals while soldiers pillaged and burned their houses, often supposedly in punishment for their presumed support of rebels.

Most camp residents who had faced loss from such instances of "insecurity," as they generally called it, said that they welcomed the relative "security" of the camps, meaning not having to run for their lives at the approach of soldiers and not having to hand over their hard-won produce to rebels. But residents of at least seven of the camps appear to have been exposed to greater danger from gunfire as a result of enforced residence in camps located near military posts. In the nine months from October 1999 to June 2000, rebels attacked posts near the camps of Nyambuye, Kabezi, Kibuye, Kinyankonge, Maramvya, Mubone, and Mukonko. In several cases, they attacked a post more than once and sometimes they launched the attack from within the camp. The soldiers returned fire, on occasion firing directly into the camp. Civilians could not flee the camp during these exchanges of fire and could hardly count on protection being provided by the flimsy walls or roofs of their temporary shelters. In all but two of these cases, civilians were killed or wounded in the exchange of fire or by volleys fired at the camp by soldiers once the rebels had fled.41

On Thursday November 11, for example, FNL combatants launched an attack on the military post near Nyambuye camp. They arrived around 3:00 a.m., singing religious songs about being the "ingabo za mwami" or "army of the King" or "ngabo za Yesu," "army of Jesus." One woman peered out of her shelter to see armed men in uniform firing at the post from within the camp and from a neighboring hill. The attack finished just after dawn, leaving one grandmother and a child wounded by stray bullets.42

FNL combatants attacked a military post from inside Mukonko camp in December, also striking in the early hours of the morning. A witness, who saw a rebel firing from just next to her house, said that these combatants also sang songs about being "really from Jesus."43

In early February, the FNL launched an early morning attack on the post near Kavumu camp, drawing return fire that killed one eight-year-old child and wounded an adolescent girl in the camp. Some ten days later, on February 18, FNL combatants attacked a nearby military post from within the camp at Kabezi. Soldiers fired back. Two civilians were killed, apparently one shot by each side. A civilian at the communal office building where the soldiers were stationed, was also killed by rebel fire.44

In a recent case, the FNL attacked a post near the camp of Kinyankonge early in the morning of May 15. In the exchange of fire with the soldiers, two civilians were killed. Eleven others were seriously enough wounded to require medical attention at a hospital in the capital. Among them was Leonie Nzeyimana who had been sleeping with her five children in their shelter of leaves and branches when she was hit in the leg by a bullet. Her four-year-old daughter Nadine was shot in the arm. A thirteen-year-old girl in another shelter was shot in the back.45

Even in camps where no such exchanges of fire took place and residents were less vulnerable to direct attack than they might have been at home, any increase in security was offset by increased risks of malnutrition and disease, particularly severe and often fatal for the elderly and young children.

After being relocated, many people reported receiving no more night-time visits from rebels asking for-or demanding-support, but residents of nearly half the camps investigated said that FNL combatants had continued to call on them for "contributions," even within camps situated adjacent to military posts and supposedly protected by soldiers.46 Two witnesses commented that the soldiers do not ordinarily patrol in the camps after dark. One said, "The soldiers are afraid to come here at night. They fear the rebels, so they only come during the day."4728 Population figures received from the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) on February 11, 2000.

29 Human Rights Watch field notes, Kavumu camp, February 12, 2000.

30 Human Rights Watch interview, Bujumbura, March 7, 2000.

31 Human Rights Watch interview, Bujumbura, March 7, 2000.

32 Human Rights Watch, Bujumbura field notes, January 14, 2000.

33 Human Rights Watch interviews, Bujumbura, January 7 and June 3, 2000.

34 Human Rights Watch interviews, Maramvya, February 10; Bujumbura, March 3 and 13, 2000.

35 Human Rights Watch interviews, Bujumbura, March 3, 16, and 20, 2000.

36 Abashingantahe is the Kirundi term for a group of respected men in the community. They often act as mediators in domestic or property disputes and serve as local representatives for the people in dealing with the authorities.

37 Human Rights Watch interviews, Bujumbura, March 1 and 15, June 2, 2000.

38 Human Rights Watch interviews, January 18, February 24, March 1, 7, 13, and 17, 2000.

39 Human Rights Watch interviews, Bujumbura, January 7, May 20, June 5, 2000

40 Human Rights Watch interviews, Bujumbura, February 22, 2000.

41 Human Rights Watch interviews, Maramvya, February 10, 2000; Kavumu, February 14, 2000; Mubone, March 6, 2000; Bujumbura, February 22, March 3, 7, 10, 12, 15, 16 and 20, 2000.

42 Human Rights Watch interviews, Bujumbura, March 3, 7, 15, and 20, 2000.

43 Human Rights Watch interview, Bujumbura., March 10, 2000.

44 Human Rights Watch, Burundi Briefing Paper, "Neglecting Justice in Making Peace," March, 2000, pp. 3-4.

45 Human Rights Watch interviews, Prince Regent Charles Hospital, Bujumbura, May 16, 2000.

46 Human Rights Watch interviews, Kavumu, December 16, 1999; Kabezi, April 25; Mubone, March 6; Bujumbura, February 24, March 8, 10, 12, April 24, May 9 and 18, 2000.

47 Human Rights Watch interview, Bujumbura, March 12, 2000.

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