US moots homelands for Hutu and Tutsi

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The Independent Online
Nairobi (AFP) - The United States and "many other governments" are studying the concept of a "Hutuland" and "Tutsiland" to replace Rwanda and Burundi, the American Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, George Moose, said yesterday.

"It is a regional problem," Mr Moose said in the Kenyan capital after visits to both countries, where violence between Hutus and Tutsis is endemic.

One of the main problems was that both countries were overpopulated, he said. Mr Moose did not spell it out, but his comment on overpopulation made it appear as though the concept - setting aside territory for each tribe - could include taking some land from neighbouring countries.

Rwanda, before last year's civil war in which more than 500,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were massacred, had a population of 7.1 million in a landlocked highland territory covering 26,336 square kilometres (10,534 square miles - slightly larger than Wales), but more than 2 million Rwandan Hutus are now living in camps in neighbouring countries, and many others are living abroad outside the camps.

Burundi has a population of 5.3 million in 27,834 sq km. In Burundi, the Tutsis control the armed forces, but the Hutus make up 85 per cent of the population against the Tutsis' 14 per cent, with 1 per cent of Twa. Rwanda had an identical population mix before the war.

Mr Moose said the past few weeks had seen a "noted calming" of the situation in Burundi, and politicians urging reconciliation were now making their voices heard. But he said the situation there remained "very volatile" and institutions needed to be built up, particularly the justice system, to bring an end to a "climate of impunity".

The US was helping both countries to improve their court systems, he added. He said the Burundi government had not asked him to rein in the outspoken US ambassador, Robert Krueger, who charged that Tutsi soldiers and militiamen had massacred some 400 Hutus in late March, and said Mr Krueger retained the State Department's full backing.

Mr Moose said he had asked Burundi's leaders to reopen its border with Rwanda to refugees, reminding them of their obligations under international conventions, but "I prefer not to characterise their response". He also ducked a question on the role of UN troops in Rwanda who stood by as soldiers of the Tutsi-dominated army massacred thousands of displaced Hutus at the Kibeho camp last Saturday.

n Kibeho - Workers who dug up 338 bodies at Kibeho camp did not resume digging yesterday, raising doubts about the government's commitment to determining how many people died in the massacre there, AP reports. President Pasteur Bizimungu ordered the exhumations to show the slaughter was not as bad as first reported. He said about 300 people were killed; the UN estimates at least 2,000 died.