The danger of another Rwanda New Rwanda accuses the world Genocide and the search for justice Seeking justice after gencocideBargaining after the genocide

Robin Cook, shadow Foreign Secretary, on how Britain and the world share the responsibility for genocide
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The Independent Online
THREE images remain vivid in the memory, summing up Rwanda's past tragedy and future dilemma.

It may be best to begin in Kigali prison. It is itself a community with a personality of its own. The prison left by the former colonial power is little more than a solid stone wall round an open compound. Sensibly, the dozen guards stay outside the perimeter wall, and all arrangements for daily life within the wall, from food distribution to medical clinics, are organised by captains approved by the inmates.

There are now almost 8,000 inmates. They flow into every corner of the compound. They squat or lie on every space in the central square. They line every foot of the terraced bunks in the dormitories, which look like the etchings from below decks on the old slave ships. And still there are hundreds more to fill the open store that serves as a chapel.

The women's compound is more overcrowded. More than 200 women are crammed together for open air in the passage that links their few, small dormitories. Against another corner of the boundary wall there is an area filled with children under arrest. The youngest is seven. I ask him how long he has been here and why he was arrested, but he does not know the answer to either question.

Kigali prison is the visible expression of a country which last year witnessed more murders than any other state, but is left with less of a system to do justice than any other nation. There are no civil police, and every arrest is conducted by the army. There are few judges, as most were killed or fled the country. And there is nothing like enough capacity in the prison system to cope with the backlog of those awaiting trial.

The second image explains this tidal pressure on the justice system. At Nyarabuye church hundreds of skeletons, still fully clothed, lie where they fell in the church and around the mission school. You can tell the women who were raped by the clothing that remains disarranged around their hips. A few were chopped down running across open space, but most were killed crammed into classrooms, vainly trying to clamber over each other to escape the hail of bullets through the door and windows. Some brave individuals were killed as they stayed at prayer in the church.

The same scene was repeated at around 6,000 churches in Rwanda a year ago this weekend. It was a programme of methodically planned and meticulously executed genocide against the Tutsi minority. Across the country local Tutsi communities were advised to gather for refuge in their church as a device to ensure they could be penned together and exterminated by the Hutu militia. The militia first killed the men, but were known to chop off the toes of the children so they could not run away before their turn came.

It is easy round the table at international conferences to say that the solution to Rwanda's tensions is reconciliation. It is hard to sell reconciliation in Kigali to a Tutsi who knows 40 of her relatives were killed in the slaughter. The only possible basis on which reconciliation might be built is a system of justice which puts punishment for the massacres in the hands of due legal process and breaks the cycle of revenge. The most frequent statement I heard from members of the new government is that there must be no impunity for ethnic killing.

There is, though, no way of knowing whether the people locked up in Kigali prison did take part in the massacres. None of them has been convicted. Few of them have ever been formally charged. One who speaks to me claims he was only arrested because he returned from a refugee camp to find his house taken over by Tutsis who would not give it back.

His tale takes me to my third image of this troubled country. Not this time in Rwanda, but across the border in Zaire, where there are sprawling, teeming refugee camps. This is where the Hutu government forced its population to flee when it realised it could not halt the advance of the liberating Tutsi army. Unable to stay in power inside Rwanda, it took its population outside the country in order that it could continue to rule. The previous Hutu population of Kigali walked five days to cross the border. Their rulers took with them every part of public property that was not cemented into the ground, from the central bank reserves to the buses of the municipal transport.

Today their refuges in Zaire are an incongruous cross between makeshift camps and developing towns. Family accommodation is the most primitive do-it-yourself bivouac, but the streets are ordered and each camp now has its row of improvised shops complete with beer cellar. The full lifecycle of marriage and birth has resumed. There is a worrying air that the camps are becoming permanent.

Paradoxically, the refugees also need a new justice system back in Rwanda. They simply will not return if they fear that as Hutus they will be arrested and punished, whether or not they played any part in the massacres.

The ringleaders will never willingly return, and therefore do not want anyone else to return unless as part of an army of invasion. Half-a-dozen large transport planes have been spotted flying into Goma at dead of night with their destructive cargo of arms to enable the militia in the refugee camps to strike across the border.

The international community as a result finds itself under a double accusation by the new rulers of Rwanda. First we refused to lift a gun barrel to halt the genocide of last year. Then we fed and sustained in exile the former government who planned and executed the killings. On the anniversary of the massacres, it is time we took stock of what we must do to acquit the international community of complicity in genocide.

Britain has already done much, and more than most. Our record of aid to the new government compares favourably with that of France, which has responded to the suffering of Rwanda with a single donation to fund a French Cultural Institute. However, the British contribution is limited by official determination to keep Rwanda bracketed as a short-term emergency. We have yet to accept their request for help in training a civil police force because of anxiety that this would imply a long-term commitment.

Rwanda is starting out from scratch in rebuilding a civil government and will only succeed if we recognise that is a long-term project which will need long-term support.

The world community must also accept its responsibility to bring to justice the leaders of last year's genocide, who are all outside Rwanda - many of them in the very camps administered by the international community. Not one person has yet been indicted before the international tribunal appointed to prosecute war crimes in Rwanda. Putting under arrest those who organised the genocide would both remove the threat that they will launch a guerrilla struggle against the new regime and break their grip on the refugee camps.

In the meantime, the donor countries must repair the food pipeline to the refugee camps, where many are now on half rations. The refugees will not be starved into returning to Rwanda, but will only return if those who are innocent are convinced they will be protected by a fair justice system.

If the world community delivers its side of the bargain, then we will be entitled to ask in return for progress from the government of Rwanda. It has made creditable progress in including Hutus in its Cabinet, including both the pres-ident and the prime minister, but the massive resettlement of Tutsi exiles from the neighbouring countries must not become the base for rule by one ethnic group. Nor should it be allowed to overwhelm Rwanda's densely populated territory. The savannah of the National Park sustained only 20,000 grazing animals before the war, but now is asked to feed half- a-million cattle brought back by Tutsis returning from Uganda. Rwanda does not need an environmental collapse to follow hard on the heels of social collapse.

And the blight of Kigali prison must be removed. There should be no more arrests until there is a legal process for charging those detained, and children under the age of criminal intent should be released. Most important of all, the government of Rwanda must accept the offers of the UN agencies to provide detention camps to relieve the intolerable pressure in the prisons.

Not all the lessons from Rwanda, though, can be put into practice within that tragic country. The most sombre view I heard in Rwanda was that what happened there last year may not be an aberration but a warning example of the explosive mixture of ethnic tension and deepening poverty. The world was unprepared and unwilling to stop genocide in Rwanda, with consequences that the world will have to live with for decades to come. We must be ready and willing if there is a next time. Better still, we could tackle the causes of deepening poverty before they translate into rising tension.

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