Letter: Zaire rescue

Sir: Your report that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has endorsed a plan for an all-African military force (21 March) is welcome, if long overdue.

Hundreds of thousands of refugees currently fleeing the fighting in central Zaire needed an international military intervention last October. Plans for such a force were well advanced when it was sacrificed for entirely political reasons.

The lie that these refugees had somehow ceased to exist has been exposed by, among others, UNHCR chief Sadako Ogata, who visited the Tingi Tingi camp before it was overrun in February. Ms Ogata has described the situation in Zaire as the worst her agency had faced, and she has accused the international community of abandoning her staff (report, 26 March).

An international force - any international force - to alleviate the plight of these refugees is vital, but it must have both the resources and the resolve necessary to intervene in difficult and politically sensitive situations.

JOHN O'SHEA

Director

Goal

Dun Loaghaire, Co Dublin

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