Meanwhile, humanitarian aid was also being massively misappropriated by extremist leaders, denying services to many refugees in need. For example, MSF estimated that almost one-quarter of the refugees in Katale Camp were receiving insufficient food rations because of misappropriation.
These circumstances raised difficult questions for MSF operations managers and teams working in the camps. Humanitarian aid was not reaching the most vulnerable, and MSF was unintentionally supporting a militarized system run by perpetrators of genocide. Was the intervention doing more harm than good? There were no easy answers. With no better option to halt the instrumentalization of humanitarian aid, MSF made the difficult decision to begin pulling out of the Zaire camps in November 1994.
Hunting down and slaughtering the refugees
As the refugee crisis dragged on, the Zaire camps came to serve as a rear base for the genocidal soldiers and militiamen to regroup and launch deadly attacks against civilians across the border in Rwanda. Tensions rose between Rwandan-speaking communities—some of them long-established in Zaire—and resulted in a rapid succession of attacks and counter-attacks. At the same time, the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire (AFDL), led by Congolese revolutionary Laurent-Désiré Kabila, was formed. The AFDL joined forces with the Rwandan Patriotic Front to launch a territorial conquest from the east of the country.
By October 1996, this rebel group already controlled part of South Kivu and was providing support to the armies of Rwanda and Burundi to attack Rwandan refugee camps. During the following weeks the political and military situation changed radically in North and South Kivu. One after another, towns across the region fell and around 40 refugee camps in Goma, Bukavu, and Uvira were attacked and looted. Hundreds of thousands of refugees fled once more to escape the fighting and slaughter, some to the interior of Zaire and others to Rwanda. In response to the chaos, MSF pulled its teams out of Zaire and sent them across the border to Rwanda.