UN gropes for solution to Rwanda strife

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The Independent Online
THE PROBLEMS faced by a United Nations force intervening in Rwanda are immense. During the next two days consultations in Washington and New York will try to come to grips with the country's particular difficulties but there is evidence of fundamental misunderstanding of the Rwanda tragedy. Until recently, Boutros Boutros- Ghali, the UN Secretary-General, spoke of Tutsis and Hutus killing each other and said a ceasefire could stop the killings.

The massacres are being carried out by gangs of Hutu extremists. The rebel Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), largely Tutsi, has so far maintained its discipline despite the powerful desire for revenge. The killings are not directly part of the war exceptin Hutu areas where the minority Tutsis are being slaughtered.

UN proposals released on Tuesday called for the first contingents to secure the airport in Kigali within a week of Security Council approval but the US, which will transport the force, is suggesting that the force be sent to the border area to create 'protective zones' for refugees and displaced people.

The first problem is language. There are no Francophone countries offering troops to the proposed 5,500-strong force. It is hard to see how English-speakers could operate in Francophone Rwanda.

The second problem is that neither the hardline Hutu interim government nor the largely Tutsi RPF rebel force has given its full backing to the UN force. An RPF spokesman in New York said the force would be accepted 'as long as it was not an intervention force but a humanitarian effort'.

In Kigali, the government is equally untrusting of the UN. Some there believe that UN troops shot down President Juvenal Habyarimana's plane. Joseph Nzirurera, secretary-general of the ruling Mouvement Republicain National pour le Developpement said this week on the hardline Hutu radio that such a force was only acceptable if neutral. He said UN troops there now leaned toward the RPF.

The UN does turn a blind eye to RPF breaches of pledges. There is an 80-strong UN contingent operating along the Rwanda-Uganda border at the request of the Uganda government to prove that Kampala is not supplying weapons to the RPF. But this force is not allowed to patrol the main crossing point between Uganda and the RPF area at Kagitumba. There is a steady flow of fresh arms and ammunition to the RPF. Without agreement of the two main players there is no question of a peace-keeping force patrolling an agreed ceasefire.

The exact mandate of the UN force will be crucial. The previous force was mandated only to use its weapons in self-defence, and the troops were forced to watch as women and children were butchered in cold blood. This would be the worst of all worlds, if a force was sent in but was then found to be powerless to stop the killings.