RPF name new president

KIGALI - The Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) yesterday proclaimed one of its senior officials president of the country. Pasteur Bizimungu, a member of the majority Hutu tribe, was named president at a meeting of the RPF central committee, Jacques Bizohagara, an RPF official said.

Mr Bizimungu will be sworn in on Wednesday for a five-year term, along with a national unity government to be led by Faustin Twagiramungu as prime minister, Mr Bizohagara said. Mr Twagiramungu, also a Hutu, was appointed prime minister under a power-sharing peace accord signed last August, which was not implemented.

The RPF also threatened to invade the French-guarded safe haven in south-west Rwanda, unless French forces hand over the ringleaders of the slaughter.

'Moving in is our ambition unless the French hand over the criminals,' an RPF military spokesman, Major Wilson Rutiyisire, said in Kigali. 'If the French arrest them and hand them over, there is no need for us to move in. But we have a duty to follow up these criminals, a safe zone notwithstanding. It is our right to bring the criminals to justice,' he added.

The President of the self-proclaimed Hutu government, the Prime Minister and other leaders are sheltering in Cyangugu, the largest town in the French safe haven, where they fled on Thursday.

If the RPF carry out their threat, it will bring French troops directly into the Rwandan conflict, which has already claimed about half a million lives since April. The RPF clashed with French troops on Saturday night, and one French soldier was hurt.

The RPF said it would press on with its advance until a new government is formed. The announcement shattered hopes of an early ceasefire, which would have helped to stem the huge flow of Rwandan refugees fleeing into neighbouring Zaire to escape the RPF advance. 'We will march on until a government is sitting,' a spokesman for the RPF said.

On Friday, the RPF military chief, Major-General Paul Kagame, told the United Nations special representative, Shahryar Khan, that he was ready to call a ceasefire 'within hours' and halt his advance three miles short of the north-western border town of Gisenyi, the last refuge of the former government.