Rwanda Revisited

EVENTS in Rwanda took another turn for the worse with the massacre last weekend of more than 2,000 Hutu refugees at a camp in the town of Kibeho. Terrible as that incident was, its aftermath could be even worse if hope for rebuilding the country is further undermined.

Kibeho revealed, again, how volatile conditions are in Rwanda. The country's government, dominated by the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), wants to dissolve the huge refugee camps set up in its southwest corner as havens for fleeing Hutus. However, the camps house, along with thousands of innocent civilians, militant Hutus who took part in last year's slaughter of Tutsis.

Reports of what happened last Saturday are still muddy. But it's clear that the RPF troops have to bear most of the responsibility for the killing. This is disheartening, since it seems to perpetuate a cycle of murder and gross human rights violations. A few hundred United Nations peacekeepers were on hand, but apparently could do little to stop the carnage.

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Rwanda's immediate need is continued emergency aid for injured and still-fleeing refugees. Beyond that, the country must be helped to rebuild its civic infrastructure, and especially its judicial system. Rwandans are consumed by a sense of injustice -- and the fear of future injustices. There's some evidence Saturday's tragedy began when soldiers tried to separate out camp dwellers they suspected of participation in last year's genocide against Tutsis.

An international tribunal has been set up by the UN to spearhead the prosecution of those responsible for last year's mass killings, which took hundreds of thousands of lives, but its work has barely begun. And the judicial presence has to extend to local magistrates and judges who can shoulder some of the work of distinguishing the guilty from the innocent.

Beyond the overarching question of responsibility for genocide lie a multitude of land claims and other legal issues likely to be raised by the eventual resettling of refugees.

Until average Rwandans recognize that something other than ''laws'' of revenge and ethnic hatred are at work, they're not likely to leave refugee camps or feel comfortable in working toward a society where Hutus and Tutsis can live in peace.

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