Letter: The RPF and human rights in Rwanda

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The Independent Online
Sir: Having recently returned from Rwanda on a fact-finding mission for Physicians for Human Rights (UK), I was deeply disturbed to read in your article on returning refugees ('RPF men try to calm fears of returning Hutus', 2 August) a description attributed to French military sources. Apparently they called the Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) the 'Khmer Noir' and the new vice-president of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, an 'African Pol Pot'.

We travelled extensively in Rwanda and while we met many hundreds of the victims of the Interahamwe militias, we could find no evidence of any major or systematic human rights abuses by the RPF. There were isolated stories of prisoners being shot or badly beaten, but these pale into insignificance when assessing the scale of the recent massacres in Rwanda.

If there has been any parallel with the Khmer Rouge, it is surely the so-called 'interim government' now enjoying comfortable exile in Zaire and elsewhere. Genocide has undoubtedly been committed in Rwanda, but it is these extremists and their lackeys who bear the responsibility and not the RPF.

If the RPF has a precedent for 'political re-education', it is not Cambodia but Uganda, where many of its senior officers trained and fought with the National Resistance Army.

I have not heard any suggestion that Uganda has become another Kampuchea. In fact, many in Africa are now studying the solutions being devised there to overcome centuries of inter-tribal rivalries.

The plain fact is that France is deeply implicated in supporting the regime that planned and executed the recent atrocities. In this it is not alone.

If it is to restore its prestige in this part of the world, the French government should admit its error and co-operate fully in bringing to justice the perpetrators

of genocide, as it is obliged

in international law to do.

Yours sincerely,


Physicians for Human Rights

London, WC1

(Photograph omitted)