Hardline Hutus vow to avenge civil war defeat: Robert Block reports from Nairobi on fears that extremists may launch bloody cross-border raids on Tutsis in Rwanda

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The Independent Online
RWANDA'S extremist Hutu government may have been beaten but it refuses to recognise defeat. One day after the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) announced that its mainly Tutsi rebel army had routed the Hutu government and won the country's bloody civil war, hard-line Hutus were promising revenge.

'It took the RPF four years to come back with 20,000 people. It will take us one month to come back with five million,' Radio Milles Collines, the retreating Hutu government's mobile propaganda machine, said yesterday from a site believed to be somewhere in neighbouring Zaire.

Two Zairean border towns, Goma and Bukavu, have been flooded in the past week with more than a million Hutu refugees fleeing the RPF advance. A further two million are said to be on the way. The presence of armed remnants of the Hutu army among the refugees is now worrying diplomats, United Nations officials and international relief workers.

The fear is that loyalist forces, backed by the extremist propaganda which spurred Hutus on to slaughter hundreds of thousands of Tutsis during the past three months, could be a potential force for cross-border raids and a source of continuing instability.

'It is a time bomb. The Rwandan military is everywhere (in Goma),' the United States special envoy to Rwanda, Brian Atwood, who just finished a visit to Goma, was reported as saying.

Already there are signs that at least one refugee camp is being used as a base for Hutu extremist incursions into the country. Relief workers in the Ngara refugee camp in Tanzania report that once again every day during the past week about 15 bodies - suspected to be those of Tutsis - have floated down the Kagera river from Rwanda towards Lake Victoria.

Although Zairean authorities have been trying to disarm the Rwandan soldiers as they cross the frontier, entire military units have managed to remain intact and Goma in particular is said to be awash with weapons.

Mr Atwood suggested that a UN force be despatched to Goma to prevent a continuation of fighting and to help with the refugee crisis which is overwhelming international agencies.

Radio Milles Collines' broadcast yesterday referred to the rebels' first attempt to take Rwanda. After 30 years in exile, the RPF - composed mainly of Tutsis who fled the 1959-1963 Hutu rebellion that ended their aristocratic rule - invaded the country with a small refugee force in 1990.

The civil war was ended by a peace agreement signed in August last year, but delays in implementing the accord followed by the suspicious death on 6 April of Rwanda's president, Juvenal Habyarimana, released an orchestrated campaign of killings of Tutsis and Hutu moderates which restarted the war.

In an attempt to reassure the Hutus that they had nothing to fear, the RPF yesterday swore in a Hutu president and a Hutu Prime Minister to lead a new government inaugurated in the Rwandan capital, Kigali. The RPF Military leader and the real power in Rwanda today, Major-General Paul Kagame, was installed as Vice President and Defence Minister.

But the new government inherits a country devoid of people after three months of civil war and massacres, and UN officials say that the RPF faces a formidable task to win Hutu hearts and minds.

An unnatural tragedy, page 14