Rwandan pillaging and killing 'out of control'

Click to follow
The Independent Online
SAVAGE fighting continued for a second day in the Rwandan capital yesterday, claiming the lives of government ministers, nuns, priests, aid workers and Belgian, Ghanaian and Bangladeshi peace-keeping troops. Most killings were blamed by witnesses and Western officials on Rwanda's army and presidential guard, seeking random revenge for Wednesday's killing of the Rwanda and Burundi presidents .

The soldiers, from the majority Hutu tribe, also fought pitched battles around the parliament building in Kigali with a force of 600 rebels from the minority Tutsi tribe, based in the capital under a UN- sponsored peace plan. The soldiers were retaliating for the death of President Juvenal Habyarimana of Rwanda and Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi in a rocket attack on their plane. Both men were Hutus.

A resident spoke of 'an orgy of killings out there'. Fires raged as Tutsi and Hutu slaughtered each other, opening a new chapter in a history of inter-tribal violence that goes back decades. 'They fight, then rest, then resume. It's calm one moment, then suddenly there are explosions,' the resident said.

'There is continuous fighting, there is pillaging and killing . . . Things have got completely out of hand,' a Belgian BRTN radio correspondent, Katrien Van der Schoot, said from Kigali. She said the violence was not aimed at Europeans. 'It's clearly aimed at Rwandans, the Tutsis,' she said.

'Pogroms and '(ethnic) cleansing' are taking place throughout the city,' Carlos Rodriguez, the representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in Kigali, said in a report released in Geneva. A UN spokesman in Kigali said that members of the 700-strong presidential guard abducted the Information Minister, Faustin Rucogoza, the Labour and Social Affairs Minister, Landuard Ndasingwa, and the Agriculture Minister, Frederic Nzamurambaho. Their families and three UN military observers guarding them were also seized. Their fate was unclear.

In Rome, the Jesuit order said 11 nuns and eight priests - all Tutsis - were killed at the order's Centre of Spirituality in Kigali on Thursday. It did not say who was responsible. 'Three European Jesuits who were at the centre when the massacre took place were spared,' it said.

Several dozen Rwandans working for international aid bodies were also massacred, the Belgian branch of the charity Medecins Sans Frontieres said. Armed men, believed to be from the presidential guard, had shot the aid workers dead in front of expatriate staff, it said. 'They went to the houses of MSF Belgium and MSF Holland, Unicef and Oxfam, called out the local staff and shot them,' he said. Expatriate staff were unharmed.

Monique Mujawamariya, the founder of the newly-created Human Rights Defence Association, was on the phone to Belgium when soldiers stormed her house and began beating her up. Her last words were: 'Adieu, you cannot do anything to help me now,' before the line went dead. According to later reports she escaped and is hiding.