Rwanda tries to stop killings in Darfur

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The Independent Online

A decade ago, Rwanda suffered a genocide that left up to a million people dead. Now the tiny African country is sending 155 soldiers to help stop the killing in a country where, according to the US, another genocide is happening: Sudan.

Charles Murigande, the Rwandan Foreign Minister, whose brothers and sisters escaped death in 1994 because they were refugees in Burundi, appreciates the efforts by the African Union to stop the killing in Darfur. "The AU is trying, with the available means and the available instruments, to do the best it possibly can," he said on the margins of the UN general assembly.

But he is scathing about the UN response to the crisis. His voice remains soft, but the tone becomes harsh: "They must do more than they have done," as the primary body responsible for peace and security in the world.

Rwanda has had a long and bitter history with the UN, which stood by when the Tutsi minority and moderate Hutus were being massacred. The UN is now accused of an inadequate response to the unrest in Democratic Republic of Congo. More than 15,000 men from the Hutu militias who fled across the border in 1994 are still at large in eastern Congo from where they continue to kill.

"For 10 years, we have been begging the Security Council to put them out of business," Mr Murigande said, criticising the "voluntary" disarmament being practised by the UN peacekeeping mission in eastern Congo. "If this is not resolved sooner or later it will affect the stability and peace we are attempting to build in the region."

He also dismissed UN plans to reinforce the Congo mission. "If the UN were a government of a responsible country it would be voted out of office for misusing the resources put at its disposal."

His own government stands accused of exploiting the West's guilt about the genocide to suppress dissent by misusing laws ostensibly introduced to promote ethnic harmony and national reconciliation. Six members of Liprodor, a human rights group, fled the country in July fearing arrest after being accused by a parliamentary commission of harbouring genocidal ideas.

Asked about the case, Mr Murigande responded: "We are not a prison. They left of their own will." Rwanda has more than 170 registered non-governmental organisations, he pointed out, while only seven were named in the parliamentary report. "You hear people saying, 'ah Rwanda is against civil society'. But civil society should also be accountable." The government has asked for a judicial investigation which could lead to prosecution of some of the "40 or 50" people named in the report, he said. Promoting ethnic divisions is now a crime in Rwanda.