Fears in Rwanda that the next outbreak of fighting could engulf much of
Two of Joseph Habyarimana's children died of cholera in a camp for Rwandan
refugees in Zaire. Yet
he and surviving family members stayed on in the fetid camp for more than a year.
Habyarimana and his family--along with 1.2 million other Rwandans in refugee
camps in Zaire, Burundi
and Tanzania--were virtual hostages to the Hutu-led Army and militias that last year slaughtered as
many as 1 million people before fleeing Rwanda.
Now the deposed government forces are rearming, reorganizing and training
for more war--while the
international community feeds the refugees who live under their control. There are widespread reports
of refugees being murdered when they attempt to return to Rwanda.
More than 18 months after the genocide in Rwanda, not a single perpetrator
has been punished. And
as the strength of the former government forces grows, so does the specter of a new war that could
engulf not only Rwanda but much of Central Africa.
The key is Zaire. In August, after forcibly expelling some 15,000 Rwandan
refugees, Zairian authorities
announced that all refugees must leave by the end of the year. But in a recent interview with Belgium's
La Libre Belgique newspaper, Zairian dictator Mobutu SÀesÀe SÀeko effectively reversed the
decision by claiming that the refugees would only return home freely--defusing, for the moment, the
humanitarian crisis that the sudden return of so many people to war-torn Rwanda would have caused.
So far, Mobutu has been the main beneficiary of the Rwandan tragedy. Western
earlier attempted to punish the corrupt leader for thwarting democracy have been forced by the crisis to
resume relations to enable their humanitarian organizations to care for the refugees. Last week, the
European Union approved an aid package to cover the damages done to Zaire's infrastructure by the
Despite the reprieve for refugees, relations between Rwanda and Zaire continue
to deteriorate. In late
September, Rwanda's foreign minister flew to Mobutu's palace at Gbadolite for a scheduled meeting
only to arrive as the presidential jet was taking off. After waiting for hours, the visitors were given a fax
saying that Mobutu was in Portugal and anyone who wished to speak to him would have to go there.
The Rwandans declined.
The new Rwandan leadership charges that Mobutu continues to help its foes,
the former government
forces. Earlier this year, a report by the Human Rights Watch Arms Project revealed that Zaire was
shipping arms to the former Hutu government and its militias inside Zaire. The former Army and militias,
as well as extremist Hutus from neighboring Burundi, are also being allowed to train on Zairian territory.
"Zaire is directly involved," says Col. Joseph Karemera, Rwanda's health minister.
Hit and run. In recent weeks, cross-border attacks by Hutu extremists from
camps in Zaire have
escalated. In October, U.N. observers recorded 50 incidents, including the hijacking of an aid truck,
attacks on infrastructure and the slaughter of a family of 10 in the Rwandan capital, Kigali--some 100
miles from the Zairian border. Western diplomats say these attacks exhibit a new level of coordination:
Earlier this year, most cross-border incursions were hit-and-run attacks by small bands of three to five
men. Recent incidents have involved as many as 30 Hutu fighters.
There is growing concern that such attacks are a prelude to a full-scale
invasion by the former
government. "They will attack," says Maj. Jean-Bosco Muliisa, area commander for Gisenyi, the
Rwandan town just across the border from Goma, where some 700,000 refugees live. "All signs show
Many Rwandan officials insist that if a Zairian-backed invasion comes,
they will not only fight back at
home but will take the battle to Zaire as well. They recall that Mobutu sent Zairians to help the former
Rwandan government in 1990. Says Colonel Karemera: "I think we shall fight them again; it's almost
That could lead to a different, even bloodier, kind of African war. Since
the 1960s, when the bulk of
African countries began achieving independence, almost all African conflicts have been civil wars. A
war between Rwanda and Zaire could engulf the subregion by setting off a chain reaction in Burundi,
where fighting between Hutus and Tutsis has destabilized the country for more than 18 months and left
thousands dead. Last week, Burundian troops killed more than 250 Hutus in a refugee camp in
northern Burundi. Uganda, the primary supporter of the new Rwandan government, could also be
dragged into the conflict.
Meanwhile, investigators and lawyers for the United Nations tribunal on
the Rwandan genocide have
been working furiously since July to complete the first indictments by the end of this year. The
tribunal--similar to the one investigating war crimes in the former Yugoslavia--is headed by South
Africa's Richard Goldstone and aims to bring to trial the masterminds of the Rwandan genocide. It is a
tall order: The tribunal's budget of $10 million to indict as many as 400 people isn't much more than
what Los Angeles County spent prosecuting O.ºJ. Simpson. Because of a blanket U.N. funding
freeze, investigators must now have the approval of a U.N. under secretary general before they can
travel outside Rwanda, where almost all the suspects have taken refuge. To travel within Rwanda, the
understaffed tribunal's 30 lawyers and investigators must share five vehicles.
Despite the recent attacks, a kind of shellshocked calm prevails throughout
much of Rwanda. People
have returned to fields and villages, and basic civil services have resumed. Yet fear simmers. Most
Tutsis believe an attack by the former government is inevitable. Conversely, many Hutus are convinced
that the new government is planning a genocide against them. Rumors abound: In Kigali, tales of Tutsi
nurses murdering Hutu babies at the city's main hospital have resulted in most Hutu mothers giving birth
at a smaller facility or at home. Many Hutus believe that the 53,000 people being kept in horrific
conditions in Rwanda's prisons are there so they can be slaughtered should another war start. "What
they want is to take their revenge," says one 34-year-old Hutu who returned to Kigali to resume his
job, "and their anger is sharpened by what they see when they are burying those people who were
killed in this genocide."
Most analysts agree that the current situation could have been prevented
had the world heeded the
U.N.'s call last year to put peacekeepers into the refugee camps to separate civilians from those
responsible for the genocide. Yet, burned by Somalia and wary of another Bosnia-style peacekeeping
mission, all but one of the world's governments--Rwanda's--refused to send troops. The consequences
could be all too clear, all too soon.
BY ERIC RANSDELL IN RWANDA