Oxfam accuses UN of inconsistency

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The Independent Online
AID agencies expressed renewed fury yesterday at what they described as the West's repeated failure to prevent further genocide in Rwanda, which they described as the worst humanitarian crisis since the killing fields of Cambodia 20 years ago.

'This is the worst example so far of the Security Council acting completely inconsistently in different crises,' said Edmund Cairns, policy adviser to Oxfam. Although the council's performance on Bosnia had 'been less than faultless', the discrepancy between sending thousands more troops there, while cutting its force to Rwanda to a skeleton, spoke for itself.

Some 200,000 people have died in three weeks in Rwanda; aid officials are struggling to provide supplies for up to 500,000 refugees who have fled into north-western Tanzania. 'This is the worst humanitarian crisis that certainly we have come across since Cambodia in the 1970s,' Mr Cairns said.

He was speaking after the Security Council failed to respond to a plea on Friday from the UN Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros- Ghali, to reconsider its decision to withdraw all but some 300 soldiers from Rwanda and allow peace-keepers to use force to prevent further massacres. The cut was made after it became clear that no large Western country would send troops.

The Security Council reply was to ask Mr Boutros-Ghali to refer the problem to the Organisation of African Unity. He contacted the OAU on Saturday, and was yesterday still waiting for a response.

But although it was right to involve the OAU as a regional grouping, Mr Cairns said, it was up to the Security Council to take the initiative to fund and provide equipment for any African peace-keeping force. Such a force could 'certainly establish safe areas and corridors and protect people in those. You wouldnot have to distinguish between Hutus and Tutsis'.

An Oxfam delegation is to meet Mr Boutros-Ghali tomorrow with proposals for the 'UN and OAU to co-operate effectively, because admittedly, African troops are likely to operate more appropriately,' he said.

What the African armies lack is logistical equipment, such as sophisticated radio transmitters, to mount a successful peace-keeping operation. 'Why doesn't the Security Council just take the lead, sanction the force and say 'we will put up the money and equipment'?' Mr Cairns said.

The OAU is prevented by the terms of its charter from deploying troops from a neighbouring country to an area of conflict, which rules out the less than impartial forces of Uganda, Tanzania and Zaire. One novel suggestion floated by African analysts is to call on the large, well- trained army of Eritrea, rendered under-employed after the end of its 30 years of war with Ethiopia. The Eritrean government had already offered the force as peace-keepers during the implosion in Somalia. 'It is very effective and is more or less kicking its heels at the moment,' said a regional expert.

Peace talks between the mainly Tutsi rebel Rwanda Patriotic Front and the interim Rwandan government are due to resume in the northern Tanzanian town of Arusha today.

The RPF said it would send a delegation to explain its stand on the Rwandan conflict to the Tanzanian president - but not to meet Rwandan government representatives. The RPF's military spokesman, Emmanuel Idahiro, said it could not negotiate with a 'government of criminals', but its commanders were willing to meet government forces commanders.