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Fleeing Hutu Fighters Left Key Papers Behind

HIDDEN THREAT

By Ed O'LoughlinSpecial to The Christian Science Monitor / November 18, 1996



SAKE, ZAIRE

Twenty miles to the west of Goma, the deepest secrets of Rwanda's ousted Hutu regime are flapping in the breeze.

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Among the documents lying by the road are plans for an armed return to Rwanda and details of weapons smuggled in 1994 to the former Hutu-led Rwandan government through Israel and Albania during Rwanda's anti-Tutsi genocide.

Two days ago, just short of the town of Sake, the Hutu forces finally broke and ran, abandoning their trucks and heavy weapons in a frantic effort to escape attacking Tutsi-led Zairean rebels, which appeared to be backed by Tutsi-led Rwanda.

Also among the abandoned vehicles of a Hutu army convoy are scattered the files of the exiled government's archives. They represent a potential gold mine for Rwanda's Tutsi-dominated government and for United Nations investigators probing the 1994 genocide of up to 1 million Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Last Saturday the Monitor was with the first group of three journalists to make it to the convoy, passing through the debris left by up to 500,000 Hutu refugees fleeing back to Rwanda. The convoy, largely intact, was guarded by a few anxious soldiers of the Rwanda-backed Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo-Zaire.

A handful of documents picked up at random before the soldiers forced journalists back toward Goma strongly suggests that the exiled Hutu-led Rwandan Armed Forces (RAF) still existed as an organized force with a coherent military and political scheme for a return to Rwanda.

One strategy paper entitled "Project: Liberation of Rwanda" denounced Rwanda's new regime as a Tutsi fascist regime which had seized power with the help of Burundi, Rwanda, Belgium, and the UN, and was responsible for grave breaches of human rights.

Its military proposals include guerrilla strikes and incursions from the north and west - strikingly similar to the tactics used by the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front to overrun Rwanda between 1990 and 1994. Another document details the RAF's structure and fighting stance, which it puts at 18,000, plus support units such as artillery, logistics, and military police.

Another document relates how a British-based arms company shipped $6.5 million worth of weapons and ammunition to the Hutu regime as the genocide raged between April and July 1994.

The company apparently assembled the dossier of invoices, air freight bills, and payment records in an effort to persuade the exiled government to clear debts totaling $1,963,375.

The cover letter, illegibly signed, is dated Dec. 7, 1994, and reminds the Rwandan defense minister that the company had continued to deliver weapons when other suppliers failed them - at the time Rwanda was subject to an international arms embargo. "May we also add that we are able to assist you in the future if you so require," the letter concludes, eight months after the genocide broke out.

THE weapons included 5,100 Kalashnikov assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, and ammunition for small arms, mortars and artillery.

The first four shipments originated in Tel Aviv, and the last two originated in Tirana, Albania. The flights landed in Goma or Kinshasa, Zaire.

The convoy containing the documents appears to have been captured sometime after Friday morning as Tutsi rebels attacked refugee camps around Goma, forcing the former Rwandan Army and its accomplices, the Hutu Interahamwe militia, to flee.

Francois Vincent, a journalist with the British Broadcasting Corporation's French Service, made it through to the refugee camp near the town of Sake and found himself in the middle of a gun battle between Tutsi rebels and fleeing members of the Hutu Interahamwe militia.

The Interahamwe accused him of being an American, dragged him from his car, and were about to murder him when he was able to convince them he was French.

In 1994 the Rwandan French-speaking Hutus enjoyed military and diplomatic support from France but accused the United States and Britain of backing the English-speaking Tutsi regime.

Ironically, it now seems that the US and British troops taking part in the planned intervention force for Zaire could find themselves under threat of weapons sent by a private British company into the hands of Francophone Hutu fugitives.

Among the debris on the Sake front line last Saturday lay a discarded assault rifle, made in the USA.