UN set to send 5,500 troops into Rwanda

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The Independent Online
HORRIFIED by the genocide in Rwanda, the United Nations Security Council was meeting last night to dispatch an all-African peace-keeping force of 5,500 to ensure the safety of refugees.

The new troops, expected to be authorised by the end of the week, would reinforce the hard-pressed contingent of 270 Ghanaians already in Rwanda. Ghana, Nigeria and Tanzania have volunteered some troops, but whether the African nations were prepared to provide enough reinforcements was not clear.

Pressing the Security Council for immediate action, the UN Secretary- General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, said: 'The prospects of success depend upon the earliest deployment of the proposed force.' In a letter to the council, Mr Boutros-Ghali estimated at least 1.2 million Rwandans would become displaced and be in need of humanitarian aid and protection from the fighting between government and rebel forces. At least 200,000 people are estimated to have died in Rwanda's slaughter, and a further 250,000 have fled the country.

Should the council agree to his plan it would be reversing a decision made last month to keep only a token force in Rwanda. But that was before the horrifying wave of massacres and the flood of refugees into neighbouring Tanzania.

The latest plan is a severely modified version of Mr Boutros-Ghali's initial approach to the crisis, which was to launch an intervention force with the express mission of ending the fighting between the majority Hutus and the minority Tutsis. There was no support among UN member states for such a force which would clearly have been at great risk.

Now, the United States, Britain and France are backing the second plan with logistical support and humanitarian aid, but not with troops.

Although the plight of civilians worsens daily, the new force would not be in place inside a month. Mr Boutros-Ghali envisages a three-step plan: bringing the Ghanaians up to full battalion strength, 800 men, in the first week; deploying two more battalions in the next two weeks; and then sending two more and a support group. The mission would be to arrange a ceasefire and then revive the so-called Arusha peace process between the two sides, which broke down a month ago. Another aim would be to keep open the airport at the capital, Kigali.

The constant shelling in Kigali has made it impossible for the UN to deliver enough food, water and medical supplies to more than 15,000 people living under UN protection there. 'We have food for them in the city, tons and tons of food, which is stuck in warehouses,' Major Jean-Guy Plante, a member of the Canadian UN contingent, said.

Last night, government soldiers were making a desperate attempt to halt an advance by the Rwanda Patriotic Front. At Kanombe camp, near the airport, the rebels pounded a government base with artillery. Government soldiers responded by hitting rebel positions in the city centre with rockets, artillery and mortars. Some of the shells exploded near the UN headquarters and a stadium where 3,000 refugees have sought UN protection.

Killers on loose, page 16

Leading article, page 19