Hutus plot to regain Rwanda

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The Independent Online
ELIEZER NIYITEGEKA is obsessed with democracy. It is a strange obsession for a man accused by international human rights groups of being a war criminal. But Mr Niyitegeka, the Information Minister of Rwanda's former Hutu extremist government, is occupied with the idea of teaching the Western world the true principles of government of the people. He sums them up in two words: majority rule.

In Rwanda today, said Mr Niyitegeka, sitting in a lush lakeside resort in Bukavu, Zaire, there is a government run by the mainly Tutsi Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF), which represents the minority of the country. The majority of Rwandans, the Hutus, are living like himself (although not quite as comfortably) as refugees in Zaire or Tanzania. The world not only accepts this but sanctioned it by placing the Rwandan government under an arms embargo, thus ensuring its defeat by the RPF, he said.

'We have to get the international community to respect majority rights. We will use media. We will use diplomacy. If that fails, we will use force. We will reorganise our army. We have an army. What we need is bombs and munitions, so we will buy them. We have the money. We will try to get help from friends,' he said.

'And we don't have to wait. We have suffered enough. The majority does not have to suffer while a minority rules its country. That is injustice. Now we are going to preach democracy to the West, because we have seen that the West does not know what democracy is. Democracy is the rule of the majority but the protection of the minority. We are ready to protect them. We have to save democracy.'

After an organised campaign of extermination against the Tutsis and those Hutus opposed to Rwanda's ruling party - much of which was directed by broadcast on Radio Rwanda, which was under the minister's control - it is doubtful that Mr Niyitegeka means what he says. But he cannot be entirely dismissed.

Mr Niyitegeka, like most members of the country's former government, is holed up in Bukavu on the Zairean border, near the south-western Rwandan town of Cyangugu. The court assembled in Bukavu spends most of its time involved in self-justification while ministers plot their return.

However, these are not just pipe-dreams. The former government still has more than 20,000 men in uniform in eastern Zaire and an intact military and political structure. Perhaps more important, it maintains a hold on more than 1 million refugees in camps in Zaire through a campaign of propaganda and intimidation.

Such is the power of the former government over refugees that on Tuesday the United Nations in Rwanda announced that part of its mission was the 'battle for the hearts and minds of the people in the camps'. The UN said it was planning a counter-propaganda campaign to assure refugees that it was safe to return to Rwanda.

The former government said that it had asked Kinshasa permission to resume its radio broadcasts to refugees in Zaire. The broadcasts by an extremist radio station, Radio Milles Collines, the government in exile's mobile hate propaganda machine, went off the air three weeks ago.

On the question of why the Hutus killed so many Tutsis, Mr Niyitegeka, who said that he was above reproach, admitted that he had given the matter much thought. 'We have documents proving that most of the Tutsis were part of the RPF. And if we were fighting against the RPF . . . then people had to fight them also,' he said.

He continued: 'Even if people will go back to Rwanda, the army will stay here and within one or two years they will go back and there will be fighting again. There will never be peace. If you have 200,000 Tutsis in Kigali and they are in power, they can live there for 10 years or 20 years but in the end you will have war again.'

(Photograph omitted)