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U.N., Zaire Consider Foreign Troops to Remove Militiamen

By Keith Richburg
The Washington Post
GOMA, Zaire

A team of U.N. and Zairian government officials has concluded that the only way to persuade hundreds of thousands of Rwandan Hutu refugees to return home is use thousands of foreign troops to remove militiamen, ex-soldiers and former Rwandan politicians from the sprawling camps along Zaire's eastern border.

The final report of the U.N. technical mission studying the deteriorating security situation in the camps concluded that "the separation of the militiamen and the politicians from the rest of the camp population is imperative." Fear of the Hutu militias that control the camps is preventing refugees from returning to Rwanda, according to the report.

It said such an operation would last at least two months and involve "a force of significant strength" that could "forcibly disarm, collect and escort the RGF (Rwandan government forces) to cantonment sites."

The former soldiers and militia fighters, accused of killing hundreds of thousands of Rwanda's minority Tutsis during a campaign of genocide last spring, have threatened to kill Hutus who try to return to Rwanda, now controlled by a Tutsi-led government. That government was formed after Tutsi-dominated rebel forces routed the former Hutu-led regime's army in July, prompting about 1 million Hutus to flee to neighboring Zaire in fear of mass reprisal killings.

The assessment, prepared by a joint committee of U.N. military and civilian officials and Zairian authorities, was presented to Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali and his special representative for Rwanda, Shahryar Khan, during a meeting earlier this month.

The report concludes that rooting out the Hutu extremists from the camps "would require a large number of troops in a complex operation and would likely attract the attention of the world press and the censure of liberal governments. The best hope of success would lie in quick and decisive action."

However, U.N. officials in New York said Boutros-Ghali doubts he can raise either the funds or the peacekeeping troops quickly enough for the aggressive operation called for by the team.

In a report he soon will present to the Security Council, Boutros-Ghali lays out three options, including one involving 12,000 U.N. peacekeepers who would occupy all the camps and force out armed Hutu militias.

A second option, which Boutros-Ghali said he believes is more feasible, is for a force of 3,000 to 5,000 U.N. peacekeepers to move through one camp at a time establishing tight security, retaking control of food distribution from militias and encouraging refugees to return home. The peacekeepers would avoid open clashes with Hutu gunmen.

The United States generally supports this plan but wants to limit the number of troops to about 2,000, U.S. officials said.