THE sooner the better for change in Rwanda.
That is the United Nations Security Council view on everything from getting the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) to make good on its promise of naming a broad-based government to replacing French troops with UN peacekeepers. Though the Council has authorized up to 5,500 UN troops for Rwanda, volunteers, needed equipment, and transportation have been hard to come by. The UN presence in the Rwandan capital of Kigali consists of less than 500 troops.
The UN gave its blessing two weeks ago to a multilateral force under French command for a stay of up to two months, but France wants its 2,500 troops in southwest Rwanda and Zaire out by July 31. Now UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali says it could take three months to get UN forces assembled.
Rwanda's civil war took a decisive turn early this week when rebel RPF forces seized Kigali and laid claim to as much as 80 percent of the country. The RPF, made up largely of the minority Tutsi, who account for less than 15 percent of the population, say the new government will include moderate members of the Hutu majority and follow the power-sharing agreement reached in Arusha, Tanzania, last year.
UN Security Council President Jamsheed Marker says any new government that follows the Arusha accord is likely to win Council support. Claude Dusaidi, a RPF spokesman at the UN, says the new government will include no one from the ``defeated'' Hutu-dominated government or any Hutu charged with genocide. In line with the Arusha accord, the RPF named moderate Hutu Faustin Twagiramungu as prime minister. Under the accord, signed last August and backed by Belgium, France, Germany, and the United States, Mr. Twagiramungu was to lead a transitional government for 18 months, paving the way for free elections.
Twagiramungu said yesterday he would install his new government next week and called on the US and UN to support the process of reconciliation. He also urged the military to make peace with the rebels.
Facing the new situation on the ground, France this week issued an urgent appeal to the UN for support of a new plan to create a large humanitarian security zone in Rwanda's government-controlled southwest. The choice, according to Paris, was UN support or French withdrawal. In the end, France settled for Mr. Boutros-Ghali's endorsement of the plan as one consistent with past Council resolutions.
France now says the Council's approval was neither sought nor needed. Yet several diplomats question whether Council support could have been obtained. Most analysts agree that France has gone out of its way in its new mission to appear evenhanded. But Paris was an early and strong supporter of the Hutu-dominated government in Rwanda's civil war. Memory of that partisan history was a factor in the decision by five Council members to abstain in the June 22 vote authorizing the French-led, interim humanitarian mission.
COMMENTS by French military leaders in Rwanda, pledging to stop the rebels from entering the security zone, added to the discomfort in the Council this week.
``I think there was a great deal of skepticism ... both about the size of the zone being talked about and the kinds of things the French were saying they would do,'' says one Council diplomat whose nation abstained on the last vote. ``It made it look like a demarcation line was being drawn between the government and the RPF that risked turning the UN mandate into something it wasn't supposed to be.''
``I don't have problems with unilateral or ad hoc multilateral interventions, but I think they ought to be done ... independently,'' comments Michael Clough, an African expert with the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations. ``If the UN is in no position to put its forces into Rwanda in a serious way, it's in no position to monitor and oversee how the French define and carry out a UN mandate.'' Several Council members also expressed concern about the nature of the French mission. The French were authorized to use force under chapter seven of the UN charter in pursuit of their humanitarian goals, while UN troops in Rwanda are allowed to use weapons only in self-defense. That difference is one reason France wants to withdraw before UN forces are increased.
John Ruggie, a peacekeeping expert at Columbia University in New York, says he hopes the transfer of the mission from French to UN troops is smoother than it was between US and UN troops in Somalia.
Much of the tension between rebel Rwandan and French military leaders has subsided in recent days. Both parties now talk about limits for the new security zone or zones. The RPF's Mr. Dusaidi says he has advised the Security Council that the enclaves must be small and that any military personnel must be disarmed before entering. He told reporters that if the French do not do that job, the RPF will.