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Help Rwanda Now

July 20, 1994



WITH the civil war in Rwanda apparently over, the new government and the international community have two daunting opponents yet to face in order to help stabilize the country: hunger and deep-seated fears of reprisals.

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In the three and a half months of carnage an estimated 200,000 to 500,000 civilians died - largely from the minority Tutsi tribe -

at the hands of Hutu soldiers and local militia. The civilian slaughter, eclipsing the military casualties, rightly has been called genocide. It also sparked widespread fears of reprisal among majority Hutus as forces of the Tutsi-dominated Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) moved to oust the government. At least 1 million refugees have streamed into Zaire, with more expected. Another 2 million are said to be displaced inside Rwanda. It is as though, within a three-month period, the state of North Carolina lost nearly half its population, with much of it either displaced internally or streaming into adjacent states.

The world community has failed to respond to the genocide, as UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali has noted. It cannot fail to respond to the humanitarian crisis. UN officials say they need from $50 million to $90 million to ease the crisis. The United States has pledged $31 million. The European Union has pledged $185 million, but the money may be long in coming because it must be pulled from a fund set up with 70 nations in Africa, the Caribbean, and Pacific.

The increased aid must be matched by efforts to build confidence among the refugees that they will be able to return safely. As a practical matter, Rwanda's new government doesn't have much to govern without them. And outside Rwanda, countries such as Zaire, themselves in economic and political disarray, can't host millions of refugees indefinitely without the threat of violence.

The RPF has taken a positive first step in naming Faustin Twagiramungu as prime minister and Pasteur Bizimungu as president. Both are Hutus. Mr. Twagiramungu was to have been named prime minister under a peace plan signed last August by the RPF and the Rwandan government. In addition, UN peacekeepers with clear rules of engagement should be deployed quickly to establish and enforce security zones. However controversial its month-long military mission in Rwanda, France has demonstrated that credible resolve can forestall pursuit of refugees. Given the fear and antipathy on both sides, a UN presence is likely to be lengthy. But the alternative - more violence and suffering in the region - is unacceptable.