SENIOR United Nations investigator has confirmed the suspicions and allegations by various analysts that the killings in Rwanda since April were the result of preplanned genocide.
The total number of people killed has been conservatively estimated at 200,000 to 500,000 and may be much higher, according to Rene Degni-Segui, the UN special investigator for human rights in Rwanda. He is calling for war-crimes trials for the guilty. His report was based on a four-day visit to Rwanda and interviews with aid workers, UN officials, and others. Many of the massacres are attributed by observers to civilian militias who rampaged through the streets of the capital, Kigali, and other government-held areas immediately after Rwanda's President Juvenal Habyarimana was killed April 6.
But the UN report says the killings were planned long before that. Mr. Degni-Segui called the genocide ``well-orchestrated'' and blamed the Rwandan government.
In a recent interview Michael Dottridge, the Africa program director of Amnesty International, pointed to a similar pattern in Rwanda over the past two years of increasing violence by government-organized civilian militias. The militias, he said, composed of the majority Hutu, often attacked minority Tutsi.
``We had incidents during 1992 and early 1993'' that indicate militia actions against the Tutsi, Mr. Dottridge said. The slayings were carried out ``by a group of people who have participated in mass killing who wanted power for power sake,'' he alleged.
One way for the government to hold on to power was ``to precipitate mass killings of the entire Tutsi population,'' Dottridge said. ``Clearly, part of their strategy was to eliminate the Tutsi.''
Dottridge said propaganda by the government has been strong over the past two to three years not only against the Tutsi, but moderate Hutus who back political accommodation with the minority.
Degni-Segui, dean of the law faculty at Abidjan University in the Ivory Coast, said a hate campaign by state-controlled radio, the distribution last year of weapons to civilians and militiamen, and intense training for militias between November and March all point to preplanned slaughters.
``It is uncertain whether we will ever know the number of victims,'' he said. He has called for war crime trials for those responsible. But even when some of the alleged killers are located, he says, it will be no simple task to isolate the accused, much less bring them to trial.
In Tanzania, for example, Rwandan Jean Baptist Gatete was arrested recently by Tanzanian police, apparently for bragging that he had participated in the killings. But having committed no crime in Tanzania, he was released. Despite police restrictions, he then returned to the massive UN refugee camp near the Rwandan border. UN officials attempted to convince him to leave the camp voluntarily, but several thousand refugees protested their efforts.
``We have many Gatetes [possible killers] in the camp,'' says Jacques Franquin, a field coordinator at the border camp for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. ``The best for the moment is to ignore the guy.'' He also estimated that several killings are taking place in the camp each day of enemies of the government. ``They just continue their bloody work,'' he said.
Hutu refugees in the camp say they had lost family members killed by the Tutsi-dominated rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front. Some complained that there had been too much publicity about Hutus killing Tutsis and very little about murders by the Tutsis.