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World - Africa

Hutu-Tutsi families head for U.S., fleeing prejudice at home

Graphic November 27, 1998
Web posted at: 10:40 p.m. EST (0340 GMT)

From Correspondent Catherine Bond

MWANZA, Tanzania (CNN) -- Some 280 refugees from Rwanda and Burundi have been given permission to immigrate to the United States because of fears that their intertribal marriages will make them targets if they return home.

At a refugee camp in Tanzania, the future immigrants are receiving a cultural orientation via videotape. While many don't understand the English, the message of what America might be like seems to be getting through.

"You must work for a living," says 17-year-old Suleiman. "You must get on well with your neighbors and not hit anyone."

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CNN's Catherine Bond reports from Mwanza, Tanzania
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"I think life in America is much better than in our country, because it's developed, it's democratic, and it's rich. And Americans like outsiders," says another refugee.

During the three days of preparation they receive, the refugees are told that in the United States, husbands won't be legally permitted to beat their wives and that the police are there to help them, not persecute them.

In these married couples, one partner is drawn from the Hutu tribal group and the other from the Tutsi group.

Fighting between those two ethnic factions has been the trigger for genocidal campaigns in both Rwanda and Burundi during the past five years. The animus against such mixed marriages is so great that the United Nations created a special refugee camp for these families for fear they would be attacked by other refugees.

The families are due to board planes for the United States in December.

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