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
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent