`Safe corridors' plan to help Rwandans return

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The Independent Online
Nairobi (Agencies) - Rwandans suspected of taking part in last year's ethnic massacres in their country should be removed from refugee camps in Tanzania and Zaire, seven regional leaders have agreed.

At a summit to discuss ways of reconciling defeated Hutus and the Tutsi-dominated government in Rwanda, the leaders also agreed on Saturday that safe corridors from the camps to the border, and safe transit points inside Rwanda, must be set up to enable refugees to return home.

But the communique did not say who should undertake the task. Also, it did not mention the UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali's proposal to send UN troops to restore order in eastern Zaire camps controlled by extremist Hutus - no doubt because ofa shortage of funds and volunteers. Political analysts said the agreed formula would mean little unless backed by an international peace-keeping force with real muscle. Regional observers said none of the seven African states is able to provide such a force, pouring scorn on an offer by Zaire to provide 2,500 troops.

"That is tantamount to internationalising thuggery,'' a Western diplomat said. "Zaire has Africa's, if not the world's, most indisciplined, chaotic and corrupt army. How could it be trusted to do the job?"

At the Nairobi meeting, chaired by President Daniel arap Moi of Kenya, were Presidents Hassan Ali Mwinyi of Tanzania, Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, Sylvester Ntibantunganya of Burundi, Pasteur Bizimungu of Rwanda, Frederick Chiluba of Zambia and the ZaireanPrime Minister, Kengo wa Dondo. UN military and political officials in Rwanda also attended.

Relief agencies and UN officials accuse soldiers of the former government and extremist Hutu militias of intimidating refugees who want to go home. Extremist Hutus and soldiers are suspected of committing the worst massacres in Rwanda after President Juvenal Habyarimana died in a still unexplained plane crash on 6 April. Some 500,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.

The UNHCR says an estimated 1.2 million Rwandan refugees remain in eastern Zaire camps, by far the largest number of those who fled ethnic violence between April and July. Among them are an estimated 30,000 former soldiers and 10,000 militiamen.