U.S. won't send troops to Rwanda

May 01, 1994|By New York Times News Service

UNITED NATIONS -- Clinton administration officials said yesterday that they were examining the idea of helping to organize and pay for military intervention in Rwanda by neighboring African countries. But they have apparently rejected any direct U.S. action to stop the civil war in the central African nation.

Thousands of Rwandans trying to flee the massacres were trapped when forces of the Rwanda Patriotic Front captured and closed the country's frontier with Tanzania on Friday, officials of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported from Geneva yesterday.

About 250,000 refugees had crossed into Tanzania in the previous 24 hours. Estimates of the numbers of refugees still in Rwanda varied widely.

Abdul Kabia, a U.N. spokesman, told the Associated Press from Kigali, the Rwandan capital, that observers believed 400,000 refugees had not crossed the border.

The Kagera River, which runs along the border was clogged with dead bodies, agency field officials said yesterday.

They said they heard gunfire from inside Rwanda, suggesting that the Rwanda Patriotic Front, a movement dominated by the Tutsi minority ethnic group, was attacking the refugee columns filled with Hutus, the majority ethnic group.

U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali appealed Friday for more "forceful action" in Rwanda intended to "restore law and order and stop the massacres."

But administration officials said that, with the United States and other Western countries determined not to become directly involved in the civil war, the only alternatives are to do nothing or encourage African states to intervene, possibly offering them financial and logistical help.

U.S. officials stressed that administration thinking remains at a preliminary stage and that no decisions have been made on what specific measures might be taken.

It is unclear whether other African states would be willing to mount any kind of new peace enforcement operation in Rwanda, particularly after the setbacks the United Nations suffered over its attempt to enforce peace in Somalia last year.

The fighting in Rwanda, which broke out after the country's president was killed in a mysterious plane crash on April 6, has left an estimated 200,000 dead and sent thousands of refugees pouring into neighboring countries.

Most of the refugees appear to be members of the majority Hutu ethnic group, traditional enemies of the Tutsi, said Sylvana Foa, a spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

Tanzania, the refugee agency is building a camp for the 250,000 Rwandans who succeeded in escaping Friday.

The camp is being put up near a fresh water lake about 10 miles from the border crossing point.

Aid workers are bringing in plastic sheeting for tents, cooking equipment, gasoline cans, soap and other supplies.

Several private humanitarian organizations, including the Red Cross, Oxfam and Doctors without Borders, are helping care for the refugees.

Many are wounded

Many of the refugees have been wounded by gunfire or hatchet blows, Ms. Foa said. She said there were indications that the Rwandan Patriotic Front was making advances in Rwanda along the Tanzanian border.

In a statement issued Friday night, the U.N. Security Council asked Mr. Boutros-Ghali to consult with the Organization of African Unity on ways of restoring law and order in Rwanda and asked him to take new "diplomatic steps" to prevent the chaos from spreading to other countries.

It also asked him to propose ways of finding out who was responsible for particular massacres.

Yesterday, the secretary-general called President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt in his capacity of president of the Organization of African Unity, asking him to prepare a plan for ending the crisis, which the United Nations could then endorse.

Although African countries have said they were in favor of increasing the size of the existing U.N. peacekeeping force in Rwanda when the council voted in April to scale it back to a token size, none of them actually offered to send new troops.

However, Western officials say if neighboring African countries are willing to send forces into Rwanda to help restore law and order, it seems probable that their generally run-down armies would need outside assistance from the West with equipment, supplies and logistical support.

At a late night meeting on the Rwandan crisis Friday, the Security Council did not formally discuss the secretary-general's unexpected letter.

Blamed government forces

Instead, it issued a four page statement that blamed the Hutu-dominated Rwanda government forces for the worst of the massacres without exonerating the rebels.

And while the council did not accuse either side of offenses under the International Convention against Genocide, it said that attempts to destroy an ethnic group constitute a crime under international law.

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