Terror returns to Rwandan hills

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The Independent Online
CANADIAN and Ghanaian UN troops yesterday began patrolling the hills of south-east Rwanda, where Hutu militias were reported to be spreading terror among the villages.

There have also been accusations of revenge killings by troops loyal to the new Tutsi-dominated government.

Fear has returned to the hillsides again, with reports of new incursions by Hutu militias and revenge killings by the RPA, the government army.

United Nations officials in Kigali reacted angrily to Friday's charge by the UN refugee agency that the government troops had massacred thousands of Hutus. While careful not to dismiss the allegation outright, officials said the announcement by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva could undermine efforts to investigate human rights abuses by past and present Rwandan governments. 'It's conceivable that these atrocities are happening in Rwanda,' said one UN official. 'But by issuing the statement now, it will be difficult to obtain solid proof.'

Ron Redmond, a UNHCR spokesman, said the agency had 'credible evidence of an unmistakable pattern' of killings carried out by the RPA since late July. The conclusion, he said, was based on 300 interviews conducted between 1 August and 5 September by a UNHCR team travelling through Rwanda, Zaire, Tanzania and Burundi.

In July and August the UNHCR set out to persuade Hutu refugees, crowded into camps in Zaire, that it was safe to return home. It has now suspended that policy, saying that thousands of Hutus had fled back to the camps, after witnessing massacres by the RPA.

The Rwandan government has acknowledged that incidents of revenge killings, some involving government soldiers, have occurred, but say those instances are 'isolated'. It says it welcomes a UN initiative to investigate who is responsible for tension in the south-east.

For the two-month old government, however, the announcement yesterday in Geneva is seen as a sign that the UN is dithering about its investigation into the massacres of April and May, in which an estimated 500,000 people lost their lives, and is instead focusing on human rights abuses.