Calm in Rwanda Masks Violence - Now It Is by Both Tutsis and Hutus

Massacres are over, but new wave of violence mars fledgling peace

ON the surface, things appear calm here in the Rwandan capital five months after the country was swept up in ethnic massacres.

Streets are so busy with cars again that minor traffic jams occur at major intersections. The downtown markets are packed.

But things are not as calm as they seem. One relief worker, asking not to be identified, told how he was robbed by Rwandan Patriotic Army (RPA) soldiers at gunpoint in his own house recently. Many Rwandans interviewed claim RPA soldiers have forcibly occupied their houses, threatening anyone trying to take them back.

And in rural areas, there have been a growing number of disappearances, says Alison des Forges, a consultant to Human Rights Watch/Africa.

This fresh wave of violence has hit as the new Tutsi-led government struggles to gain its footing. It took power in July, after its soldiers halted a four-month massacre orchestrated by the hard-line Hutu regime against the Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

The armed robbery, killing, arbitrary arrests, and disappearances cropping up in the capital and rural areas are being attributed to both the Rwandan Patriotic Army and remnants of the Hutu militas.

Senior Rwandan officials and Western diplomats and aid officials agree that the stability of Rwanda is at risk. But they do not agree on who should act first to stop the violence.

Rwandan officials, from the prime minister on down, are asking for international aid to pay their unsalaried and increasingly restless military, and to set up a judicial system and police force to help restore security.

But Western diplomats here are demanding the new Rwandan government restore security before getting aid. ``Other countries expect us to restore security before they can give us money to be more operational, [but] to have security we must have the means,'' says Rwanda's Prime Minister Faustin Twagiramungu.

``Some counties have tried to help in reestablishing water and phones, but money to pay soldiers and civil servants? Nothing has been done,'' he adds.

BUT in a recent meeting here of Western diplomats and aid officials considering what financial help to give the Rwandan government, the near-concensus was: no money until Rwanda's government takes steps to restore security and make other reforms.

According to one participant in the closed-door meeting, the actions being demanded of the Rwanda government include: halting arbitrary arrests, showing greater respect for private property, sharing power with the ousted Hutu government, demobilizing part of the Army, demonstrating greater respect for the rule of law, setting up a national assembly, and minimizing the role of the state in the economy.

``Donors [governments offering Rwanda financial assistance] are going to be very cautious,'' said one United Nations official here, who asked not to be named.

Responding to the power-sharing demand, Prime Minister Twagiramungu says his government is in a bind. ``We are willing to share power with anybody, but we can't share power with the killers,'' he says. He and others blame the former government for engineering the genocide that took an estimated 500,000 to 1 million lives.

But, he adds, several members of the ousted regime who were offered Cabinet posts turned them down.

The government admits some of its soldiers have killed Hutus in revenge and that it has imprisoned some of those accused.

Both Rwandan officials and some senior UN officials argue that unless Rwanda receives aid to set up a judicial system to try alleged Hutu genocide participants, the number of revenge killings will grow, risking counter killings by Hutu militia.

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