Insecurity and fear in Rwanda 'safe area'

FOR THE moment, calamity has been averted. Outside the gates of a local nursing school, hundreds of Rwandans stand under the searing equatorial sun and wait for emergency food rations. Nearby, on the grounds of a church-run hospital, more than 1,000 people queue patiently for measles vaccinations.

But the rainy season begins next month and the steep, rutted dirt road that leads to this small built-up village in southern Rwanda is expected to become all but impassable to the trucks carrying emergency food deliveries which now stave off starvation.

Furthermore, the scheduled withdrawal of French troops in two weeks from the UN-approved 'safe haven' which encompasses this hamlet is arousing fears among residents of a resumption of the four-year civil war.

Thus, for aid workers and the 30,000 mostly transient Rwandans here, uncertainty, along with the seasonable plumes of choking white dust, fill the air.

The precariousness of life in this village reflects the failure by the French military and the aid organisations to ensure little more than a modicum of stability inside the protective zone, which was established by French troops nearly two months ago. Its main aim was to shield members of the minority Tutsi tribe from extremist Hutu militiamen and Rwandan government troops. While lives unquestionably have been saved, the security that the international community hope to promote in the area appears fleeting.

For example, since Tuesday the aid organisation Care International has distributed food sufficient for only two and a half days. Out of a total of 160 tonnes of food that the World Food Programme (WFP) was under contract to provide to Care, it has delivered only 67 tonnes since early July.

'If WFP doesn't come through with the food quickly, the situation will get very difficult,' said Dean Engle, who is overseeing the food distribution in Kaduha for Care. Severe malnutrition already afflicts 20 per cent of the local population, according to a doctor who treats Rwandans uprooted from their homes.

Public relations is one reason for the food shortage, argued Jack Soldate, Care's director of operations for south- west Rwanda. He said that the WFP, a UN agency based in Rome, is directing the bulk of its food supplies instead to meeting the well-publicised problems of Rwandan refugees in north-eastern Zaire.

Another reason for lack of food in the safe zone is lingering friction between the French military and the aid organisations, who are loath to be viewed as acting at the behest of Paris.

Lieutenant Colonel Eric de Stavenrath, commander of the French contingent at nearby Gigonkoro, conceded that the French military had been forced to perform more humanitarian work than it had planned.

'The humanitarian aid groups do politics and the French military does humanitarian work,' said Lt Col de Stavenrath, who attended a United States military school with the new Rwandan Vice- President and Defence Minister, Paul Kagame.

More worrisome is the withdrawal later this month of French troops. Confidence in the ability of the replacement 5,500-strong UN force to preserve order in south- west Rwanda is low. Troops from half a dozen African nations have already begun replacing French forces. 'We're trying to stabilise the situation but everyone could leave in two hours,' said Lt Col de Stavenrath. 'It's very volatile.'

The most frequently cited reason for that lack of trust was the decision by the UN Security Council to remove most of the 2,500 peacekeepers from the Rwandan capital of Kigali in the middle of the bloodbath that followed the death in April of the former Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana in an plane crash. In three months, an estimated half a million Tutsi and opposition Hutu were slain by Rwandan government soldiers and extremist Hutu militiamen.

BUJUMBURA - The head of an opposition group was placed under house arrest in Bujumbura, the capital of Burundi, yesterday after three days of street clashes, Reuter reports. The opposition Party for the Reconciliation of the People, led by Mathias Hitimana, had protested against the arrest of seven academics who had launched a civil unrest campaign to bring work in Bujumbura to a standstill.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick