Frustration in Rwanda

June 08, 1994

There cannot be effective peace-keeping or humanitarian efforts by the world community in Rwanda unless a cease-fire is brokered and holds. Until then, the best that can be done is to care for exiles and refugees.

The Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF), composed largely of Tutsis home from exile, has made impressive gains at the expense of the Hutu military government that has ruled since President Juvenal Habyarimana was assassinated on April 6. The RPF has better-trained soldiers. The government-supported militia is better at murdering civilians than standing up to trained soldiers.

But even such a RPF supporter as President Yoweri Museveni of neighboring Uganda says that the RPF lacks the equipment to win a quick victory and is making a mistake in continuing to fight. "I have advised them time and again to agree to a cease-fire since the international community has promised a tribunal to try those responsible for the genocide and I do not understand when they insist on fighting."

The U.N. is tentatively preparing to feed two million refugees, though the number is no better than a guess. The neighboring countries are inundated, and Burundi, with the same population mix as Rwanda but a Tutsi military establishment, is struggling to remain peaceful.

Fourteen African governments have committed in principle to contribute troops to a United Nations peace-keeping force. They would need logistic support and vehicles from richer countries. How many would be required is up in the air, though the U.N. so far has been asking for only 5,500 more.

But the well-meaning outside powers cannot invade. They cannot intervene. They cannot make the Rwandan civil war their international war. The butchers of the present Hutu regime have much to answer for, but that does not mean that a regime solely from the Tutsi minority is the answer. Interested African third parties have been brokering democratic and ethnically diverse regimes for both Rwanda and Burundi. It was the success, not failure, of such efforts that brought about the backlash on April 6.

Right now, efforts to save orphans and move frightened people to safe areas are pitifully inadequate, but that is about all that can be done while war and massacre rage. With a cease-fire, much more would be possible.

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