Defeated Rwandan soldiers 'defecting'

KIGALI - Dozens of Rwandan soldiers from the defeated former Hutu government army are defecting every day to the mainly Tutsi guerrilla force now in power, the United Nation's special envoy said yesterday.

In the first sign that the resolve of the old army, still known as the RGF (Rwandan Government Forces), is cracking, UN envoy Shahryar Khan told reporters 400 soldiers had joined up with the former rebel Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF).

'The doors are now open to the RGF and there are centres, mainly in the south-west, where soldiers from the opposition army are now able to enlist.

Mr Khan said that his UN Assistance Mission in Rwanda (Unamir) was registering soldiers who wanted their homecoming to be recorded and that 114, including three majors, had reported to the world body on Monday. They were then passed on to the RPF, which screened them to discover whether they had participated in genocidal killings of Tutsis and Hutu opposition party supporters, before accepting them into what is effectively the new national army.

The soldiers, most of them emerging from the UN-controlled south-west region which RPF forces have not yet entered, had to be in uniform and carrying their weapons to prove they were real soldiers - as opposed to militias or civilians.

Mr Khan said civilian officials from the former government were also showing loyalty to the new administration, a vital development if the country is to get back on its feet quickly.

'Large numbers of civil servants, magistrates and teachers have sent in their particulars and have been asked to continue working,' Mr Khan said.

Lieutenant-Colonel Andrew Rwigamba, aide to Minister of Defence and RPF army chief Paul Kagame, said the army defectors included Brig adier-General Marcel Gatsinzi, one-time chief of staff of the defeated army. Colonel Rwigamba said the returning soldiers were given an 'orientation course' before being inducted into the new army.

The peace accord which the RPF and former government signed in August last year provided for the integration of rebel and regular forces in a smaller, ethnically mixed national army.

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