Rwanda Tells U.N. Force to Leave, Radio Says : Central Africa: Foreign minister declares the country needs doctors, agronomists and other experts--not troops. Peacekeepers’ withdrawal would imperil return of refugees.
Demanding aid instead of soldiers, Rwanda has told an 1,800- member U.N. peacekeeping force to leave when the troops’ authorization expires in two weeks, Rwandan radio reported Saturday.
Such a withdrawal would make it harder for U.N. refugee officials to persuade the 1.2 million Rwandans still living in Zaire and other neighboring countries to return home.
The U.N. force--sent to Rwanda in October, 1993, to keep Tutsi-led rebels from smuggling in weapons--failed to stop genocidal massacres orchestrated by the country’s Hutu leadership that killed about 500,000 people, most of them Tutsis.
After the Tutsis seized power last year, more than 2 million people, most of them Hutus, fled the country for fear of revenge killings.
In a letter this week, Foreign Minister Anastase Gasana told U.N. Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali that the country needs doctors, agronomists and other experts.
“Survivors of last year’s genocide and massacres need tangible aid rather than the presence of soldiers,” the radio broadcast, monitored in Kenya, quoted Gasana as saying.
According to the broadcast, the letter said Rwanda’s security was the responsibility of the government and people of Rwanda.
On Friday, the U.N. special envoy to Rwanda, Shaharyar Khan, said the peacekeeping force was expected to leave after its mandate expired, barring last-minute negotiations with the government.
In Zaire, President Mobutu Sese Seko has dismissed as impracticable a Zairian government deadline for Rwandan and Burundian refugees to leave his sprawling country by the end of the year.
Mobutu, in a state television interview Friday marking the 30th anniversary of the coup that brought him to power, said that enforcing the deadline would harm Zaire’s image abroad.
“For the dignity of our country, how can a people like ours which, at the call of its chief, received these refugees now say, ‘It’s Dec. 31, go home’?” Mobutu told the interviewer.
He added: “We can’t give that image of Zaire abroad.”
Prime Minister Leon Kengo wa Dondo has called for the repatriation of the estimated 1 million Rwandan refugees in Zaire, arguing that they are putting an intolerable strain on the social fabric of the nation’s eastern border areas.