Troops on standby for Rwanda evacuation

Click to follow
The Independent Online
BELGIAN and French troops stood ready last night to rescue foreign nationals from the tribal and political butchery in Rwanda which has claimed the lives of United Nations peacekeepers, aid workers, nuns and priests.

The Red Cross reported up to 400 bodies in one hospital in the capital, Kigali, and said thousands may have been killed. In Rome, the Jesuit order said 11 nuns and eight priests - all Tutsis - had been killed. Rwandan workers of international aid agencies have also been rounded up and killed.

Sporadic heavy gunfire echoed around Kigali after two days of bloodletting sparked by Wednesday's killing in a rocket attack of the president and his counterpart from neighbouring Burundi.

The leader of the rebel Rwanda Patriotic Front, Paul Kagame, said his movement might move on Kigali to restore law and order, claiming: 'There is absolute anarchy.' But the commander of the Belgian UN peace-keeping troops in Rwanda said a ceasefire was being negotiated and could come into effect by this morning.

As the former colonial power - Rwanda became independent in 1962 - Belgium has a responsibility to its 1,500 expatriates in the country, and feels a moral obligation to try to prevent all-out civil war. Although the death of at least 10 Belgian paratroopers at the hands of the presidential guard has provoked outrage, Belgium has little political influence in Kigali.

With the Hutu presidential guard in the ascendancy, the Belgian troops are particularly vulnerable. Their UN mandate is merely to oversee the peace process and they are only very lightly armed. The Bangladeshi troops in Kigali are reportedly even less well-equipped.

Killing out of control, page 10