Refugees pour out of Kigali

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The Independent Online
(First Edition)

UP TO 200,000 people have flooded out of Kigali since its capture by rebels, worsening Rwanda's desperate refugee crisis, writes John Lichfield.

According to eye-witness reports by an Oxfam official, there are at least 300,000 refugees on the move in north-west Rwanda alone, and another 200,000 in camps.

The Oxfam report, made available to the Independent, quotes accounts of the fall of Kigali which suggest that the forces of the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) 'acted pretty gruesomely' during the final battle for the capital. This cannot be independently confirmed. The mainly-Tutsi RPF has behaved, in the main, correctly towards Hutu civilians despite the earlier massacres of Tutsi civilians by government forces and militias.

The Oxfam account speaks of a 'huge need' for food, medical and other aid for the refugees but sees little prospect of solving the 'terrible logistical' problems.

Meanwhile, France appealed yesterday for help in caring for hundreds of thousands of refugees pouring into its safe zone in south-western Rwanda, saying it could not handle the crisis alone.

The French Prime Minister, Edouard Balladur, will travel to New York on Monday to make the case before the United Nations Secretary-General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali, and the Security Council, that France's goals in Rwanda have been substantially met.

A small contingent of RPF troops is reported to have entered the zone, which is shielding Hutus believed responsible for massacres against the Tutsi minority, along with civilians. Rwandan political parties, including the RPF, are troubled by the French presence and want Paris to withdraw its troops by the end of the month.

At a news conference in Paris, the parties also urged France to prove its neutrality by disarming militias under its protection and gathering evidence of genocide for an expected UN tribunal.