Rwandan killers set to return

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The Independent Online

in Nairobi

The perpetrators of the Rwandan genocide are rearming for a violent return to their homeland after nearly a year in exile. This is the frightening message of a report released last night by Human Rights Watch.

After fleeing to Zaire last July, those responsible for killing more than half a million of their countrymen set about rebuilding their military infrastructure, the human rights body said. They did so with the help of a number of countries, including France, Zaire and South Africa, according to Rearming With Impunity, a report based on a four-month investigation in central Africa.

This adds weight to growing of evidence against the former Rwandan regime and its partners-in-exile, the defeated Rwandan army and the militias that carried out last year's massacres. Its meticulous listing of arms shipments, in defiance of a UN arms embargo, amounts to a damning indictment of those countries facilitating directly or indirectly, the resurgence of a menace to mankind.

The very people who executed last year's genocide are shown to be reassembling forces, with the connivance of Zaire's military and civil authorities, in refugee camps in that country. Training is being conducted by the ousted Rwandan army (FAR) and the reorganising of their auxiliaries have been well documented. What has not received much publicity is the ease of access to sophisticated military equipment.

Using funds plundered as they fled as well as assets in foreign countries, the exiled Hutu leaders of the former Rwandan government have been able to buy arms on the open market. The shipments, the report asserts, have mostly come in through the airport at Goma in eastern Zaire. Human Rights Watch says that two planes of Air Zaire, a state company, flew weapons to Goma from the Seychelles in June 1994. The arms, whose transport was allegedly negotiated by a Zairean government functionary, were delivered to the FAR.

The French government stands accused of having delivered five arms shipments to Goma while last year's genocide was still in progress. The report further contends that assistance continued to arrive after the French launched Operation Turquoise, establishing a ''safe zone'' in south-western Rwanda. It is also alleged that French forces trained Hutu militiamen.