Rwanda: US keen to prove its concern over refugees' plight: Thinking back to the cost of Somalia, Washington stresses intervention is purely humanitarian

EAGER TO demonstrate their government's concern for the desperate plight of Rwandan refugees, top-level French and US officials briefly visited this eastern Zairean town yesterday and announced an increased effort to deliver aid to the more than 1 million Rwandans now in local refugee camps.

As astonished Rwandan refugees looked on from outside the barbed wire perimeter of the airport, the US Secretary of Defence, William Perry, said: 'My heart is torn by the human tragedy that is unfolding here in Goma.' International relief operations aimed at aiding the more than 1 million Rwandans who poured through the town two weeks ago, 'have truly turned the corner', he said.

Mr Perry announced that earlier in the day US military personnel had opened the airport in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, to a round-the-clock operation, which would greatly speed delivery of emergency relief supplies to Rwandans in a half dozen UN refugee camps in north eastern Zaire, as well as to Rwandans returning home.

Mr Perry emphasised that the motives behind the US intervention in Rwanda, the first since its military mission in Somalia that cost the lives of 30 Americans, were purely humanitarian. 'We're not in a position to provide peace- keeping support to Rwandan refugees who fear retaliation if they return home. The Pentagon will maintain a security detachment in Kigali to protect US soldiers but not deploy any combat troops in Rwanda' said Mr Perry.

He flew here this afternoon following a half hour meeting in Kigali with the new Rwandan president, Pasteur Eizimungu, and the vice-president and defence minister, Paul Kigame, during which safety for returning Rwandans was discussed.

The US Lieutenant-General Daniel Schroeder also took part in the talks; he said that the Rwandan leaders were told that Washington would welcome their request for assistance in any efforts it undertook to reassure Rwandans in Zaire that their safety would be guaranteed upon returning home. He insisted that the Rwandan government, not the United States, would be the ultimate guarantor of the returnees' safety.

General Schroeder who is heading the US joint task force in Rwanda, refused to set a ceiling on the size of the US military contingent that would be deployed to Rwanda and neighbouring countries to carry out the relief mission; today the numbers surpassed 1,000. Nor would he set a deadline for withdrawal. 'We'll be here as long as it takes,' he said.

While Mr Perry and his entourage were eager to allay concern about the future course of Washington humanitarian intervention in Rwanda, the visiting French Prime Minister, Edouard Balladur, was eager to put the best possible face on his government's own efforts which are due to end on 21 August.

'France has assumed its international responsibility' Mr Balladur proclaimed to reporters. 'France can be trusted.' Paris would continue to provide relief supplies following its scheduled withdrawal of 3,000 French troops and would reconsider those plans only if 'new disorders' broke out.

The US Defence Secretary's visit came amid doubts about the effectiveness of Washington's own aid effort. Since President Bill Clinton ordered his government 10 days ago to implement a 'practical plan of action' for dealing with the outbreak of cholera among Rwandan refugees, the US initiative has been crippled by tentativeness. Although the US delivered two water purification systems to Goma last week to address the refugees' most urgent need, delivery has been crippled by the availability of only nine tanker trucks to transport it.

(Photograph omitted)

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Hire Manager - Tool Hire

£21000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is seeking someone w...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition