RPF's PM-designate returns to Rwanda

THE man designated by the rebel Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) to be the next prime minister of Rwanda returned home yesterday after months of exile.

But it was a homecoming set against the background of a continuing rebel offensive in the north-western corner of the country that was driving hundreds of thousands of frightened Hutu civilians across the Zairean frontier, overwhelming international relief organisations and threatening a massive humanitarian disaster.

Faustin Twagiramungu, a Hutu moderate named by the mainly Tutsi RPF to head a national unity government, said upon his arrival on a UN transport plane at Kigali airport that his priority was to reassure those fleeing the rebel advance.

'We can only hope the success of the RPF will help Rwanda and that the Rwandan people will be able to forget their miseries,' he said.

But as of yesterday, it appeared that the RPF was the cause of misery for as many as 500,000 Hutus fleeing the rebel drive on Gisenyi, the seat of the rump Hutu extremist government and its last stronghold in the country.

RPF sources said its forces had taken the garrison town of Ruhengeri and were moving towards Gisenyi, 15 miles west. The sources claim the RPF is now 10 miles from Gisenyi and there were reports that the outskirts were in range of rebel guns. Hutu government officials in Gisenyi said the Rwandan army had no hope of winning the battle. A French soldier in Goma, Zaire, said the RPF appeared determined to take Gisenyi to drive out the remnants of the government 'and by implication they do not care what this causes to thousands of people'.

The stream of Hutu civilians, described by some aid agencies as a 'human tidal wave', is being spurred by fear of RPF retribution for the thousands of people killed by extremist Hutu militias after the 6 April death of Rwanda's president, Juvenal Habyarimana, in a suspicious plane crash. If the offensive continues, aid agencies warn that eastern Zaire will be swamped with as many as 1 million refugees in days.

Some officials of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) estimated that refugees were crossing into Zaire at the rate of 10,000 people an hour. 'The situation is bad. It is a humanitarian catastrophe,' said Johanni Grombach, an ICRC delegate in Goma.

The RPF has promised to call a ceasefire once Mr Twagiramungu names a cabinet and the leaders of the extremist Hutu government are apprehended for war crimes. He is expected to name a government by tomorrow.

'I have come here to assume my responsibility. It is my duty to consult partners to set up a transitional broad- based government,' said the Prime Minister-designate.

The UN envoy, Shahayar Kahn, said that Mr Twagiramungu and he agreed that the first thing to do was to establish a ceasefire. 'Things are not good. But the situation is by no means desperate. The first thing that needs to be done is to give the people fleeing reassurance, to let them know . . . they are not going to be persecuted.'

NEW YORK - The UN Security Council, faced with dire warnings from France of another humanitarian catastrophe, yesterday demanded an immediate ceasefire in Rwanda and called on the international community to supply relief for refugees fleeing rebel troops, Reuter reports.

(Photograph omitted)

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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

Austen Lloyd: Commercial Property Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - A great new opportunity with real pot...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor - Exeter

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: EXETER - An outstanding senior opportunity for...

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower