Rwanda leaders quit last refuge

RWANDA'S government was forced to flee from its refuge in the southern town of Gitarama yesterday as rebel troops advanced from the north, leaving 400,000 starving refugees in their wake.

In the capital, Kigali, the last remaining government bases came under heavy attack from the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), prompting the United Nations to suspend the evacuation of trapped civilians to safety across the city's front lines.

The hills of Kigali echoed with the sound of gunfire and exploding artillery shells. Bursts of heavy machine-gun fire alternated with the crump of mortar bombs. Plumes of black smoke rose from blazing buildings in the government-held area.

Yesterday, the rebels launched another attack on the government police headquarters situated on a hill near the city centre. With the RPF firmly established in Kigali, only the police and Presidential Guard headquarters remained in government hands.

The streets of the capital were deserted as residents surged along the road towards the Burundi border. Up to 400,000 civilians are reported to be straggling along the route or languishing in camps along the roadside. Most of those in the camps are city people unversed in the basic art of survival in the open. This is the rainy season in Rwanda - by night tropical rainstorms lash the countryside with terrible ferocity.

Most of the fleeing mass has now passed the town of Gitarama where the rump government was holed up after vacating the capital 25 miles to the north last month. Gitarama is believed to be close to falling to the rebels, and government ministers have fled the town of Kibuye on Lake Kivu.

The International Committee of the Red Cross fears that if the rebels cut the road below Gitarama it will no longer be able to deliver food supplies to the tens of thousands in the camps. The organisation says it only has food for a few more distributions.

The rebels, who captured a large supply of weapons when they took the government barracks earlier this month, have more than enough firepower to keep this conflict going. Their only worry is that they might be forced into a peace deal or the expanded UN mission in Rwanda (Unamir) might arrive before they have overturned the government. Unamir is continuing its evacuation of civilians from a number of locations around the city. Over the weekend UN soldiers transported Tutsi families from the Hotel Mille Collines across the line to the airport now in rebel hands.

More than 400 civilians remain in the hotel where they have been hiding from the murderous attentions of the Hutu death squads.

Unamir hopes to start evacuation of the Eglise de la Sainte Famille today. Some 3,000 Hutus and Tutsis are gathered in the grounds of the church which is in government-controlled territory. More than 7,000 people are caught in the football stadium too frightened to move. With little food and no running water, the conditions in these makeshift camps are appalling.

Senior commanders of the RPF and government forces are scheduled to hold their first face-to-face meeting today. UN sources have indicated that these are talks about talks, rather than full-blown peace negotiations. For its part, the RPF has made it clear that it will not halt its campaign until it has achieved its twin military objectives: incapacitating the government forces and bringing about an end to the massacre of civilians.

(Photograph omitted)

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Sheeran arrives at the 56th annual Grammy Awards earlier this year
musicYes, that would be Ed Sheeran, according to the BBC
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

SEN Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: PSHE Teacher required in Devon - Star...

SEN Teacher (Primary)

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: SEN Primary Teacher required Devon

SEN PPA Cover Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Plymouth: Teacher Jobs in Devon Devon

BSL Level 2 or above - Behaviour Support Assistant

£50 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: We are looking for Teaching ...

Day In a Page

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

Meet Japan's AKB48

Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

The evolution of Andy Serkis

First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Children's books are too white, says Laureate

Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

Blackest is the new black

Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor