Associated Press

August 16, 1997

8 Rwandan Soldiers Held on Murders

GISENYI, Rwanda (AP) -- Eight Rwandan soldiers have been arrested for killing civilians and looting their homes during military action against Hutu rebels in northwestern Rwanda, the defense minister said Saturday.

The arrests followed fresh allegations about the Rwandan army's mistreatment of civilians as it tries to quell a growing Hutu insurgency. The military has been dogged by such charges ever since its rebel forerunner, the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front, ousted the hard-line Hutu government in 1994.

Defense Minister Paul Kagame lent some credence to the latest allegations Saturday, disclosing to reporters that government soldiers had been taken into custody for pillaging and killing ``some'' people during the military offensive in Gisenyi a week ago. He called the soldiers' behavor ``acts of indiscipline.''

It was not immediately known whether the soldiers would be tried in a civilian or military court. Troops previously accused of killing civilians have been summarily executed.

The anti-government insurgency is made up of members of the former government army and allied Hutu militias whom the government ousted three years ago to end a three-month genocide that took the lives of at least 500,000 ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Kagame, who attended a U.S. military school in Leavenworth, Kan., while an intelligence officer in the Ugandan army, has said he will not tolerate any abuse of civilians by his soldiers. But doubts persist about his ability to control the army, which has mushroomed since he led it as a tight-knit rebel force.

Kagame downplayed the arrests of soldiers this week, saying there are a few bad troops in any army.

Several human rights organizations have alleged that the army has killed thousands of civilians during counter-insurgency operations in recent months.

In testimony before a U.S. House of Representatives panel July 16, Physicians for Human Rights said the Rwandan army was committing human rights abuses against civilians in northwestern Rwanda. The Boston-based group urged the suspension of U.S. military aid to Rwanda until the abuses end.

The government recently acknowledged that up to 300 civilians may have been inadvertently killed during the clashes with rebels in May and June. Distinguishing between civilians and rebels dressed in civilian clothes was difficult, it said.

Casualty figures from last weekend's fighting varied widely.

A local army commander, Col. Kayumba Nyamwasa, said 174 people died -- including 99 prisoners killed during two successful jailbreaks, 15 civilians and five soldiers.

Media reports put the number of dead at nearly 1,000.

Kagame said he had ordered an investigation into allegations that government soldiers had killed prisoners during the jailbreaks, but he believed the prisoners had been killed by fellow insurgents angry at those who refused to leave the jails.

Col. Kayumba said two of the soldiers were arrested for killing five people when they entered a civilian home to steal money.

Two soldiers were arrested for looting a carpentry shop, and three officers detained for not stopping their troops from looting a market, he said.

Kayumba said he expected to arrest several more soldiers for the looting.

In a related development, The Washington Post reported Saturday that U.S. involvement with the Rwandan army has been far more extensive than previously disclosed.

Hundreds of Rwandan forces have received combat training in addition to instruction in disaster relief, human rights awareness and land-mine removal, according to a internal Defense Department chronology quoted by the Post.

The report said some of the combat training occurred in the weeks leading up to the start of the insurgency last fall that eventually toppled the government of President Mobutu Sese Seko in neighboring Zaire, now Congo. Kagame has said that his forces provided critical assistance to the insurgents, led by Laurent Kabila.


Associated Press

July 9, 1997

Rwanda Admits Role in Congo Revolt

WASHINGTON - Rwanda's U.S.-trained defense minister, Paul Kagame, says his country played a major military role in the rebel overthrow of President Mobutu Sese Seko in neighboring Congo in May.

Kagame told The Washington Post that "mid-level commanders" from his country led rebel forces in Zaire loyal to new President Laurent Kabila and provided them with training and guns before the campaign. Kabila changed the name of the country from Zaire to Congo after Mobutu fled the country.

Kagame, who studied at the U.S. Army Command and General Staff College at Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., told the newspaper he concluded last August that the rebellion in Zaire was inevitable after meeting with U.S. officials in New York and Washington.

However, Kagame praised the United States for "taking the right decision to let it proceed" once the Congolese campaign against Mobutu was under way.

Rawandan forces participated in the Congolese rebels' capture of four key cities, Kagame said, including the diamond center of Kisangani on March 15 -- the decisive battle of the war -- and later the capital city of Kinshasa.

Kagame, who led a rebel army takeover of his own country in 1994, said "it would have been more suitable" if Congolese rebels had done more of the fighting in the former Zaire but that it also would have been riskier.


Associated Press

August 24, 1997

U.S. Special Forces Train Africans

KALAMA HILL, Uganda (AP) -- Flat on their bellies in crackling new American uniforms, Ugandan soldiers aim their AK-47 assault rifles and mimic the sounds of gunfire.

The Cincinnati native is one of 120 American soldiers sent to Uganda and Senegal to train the embryo of what the United States and other Western nations hope will become an African force to keep peace on the fractious continent.

The soldiers from Fort Bragg, N.C. -- some from the Special Forces Group, others from the 18th Airborne Corps -- arrived July 21 at this hilltop overlooking the Kabamba military training school, 150 miles west of Kampala, Uganda's capital.

For their eight-week stay in the African bush, they came armed with portable latrines, televisions, VCRs, desktop computers and a wide variety of field rations.

Fresh from fighting rebels in the restive northwest, the 770 Ugandan soldiers of the 3rd Batallion, 307th Infantry Brigade, camp in more modest conditions and live off cornmeal porridge and chapatis.

Many of the soldiers know the American trainers from earlier courses held in Uganda to improve the quality of the Ugandan People's Defense Force, a former guerrilla army that helped President Yoweri Museveni come to power in 1986.

The United States is conducting its first peacekeeper training exercises in Uganda and Senegal to show support for the two countries whose democratic and human rights records are fairly clean by African standards.

Although the program covers military basics like land navigation and marksmanship, it stresses the philosophy and tactics of peacekeeping.

Troops from several African nations drew mixed reviews for their performance in United Nations peacekeeping operations in the former Yugoslavia. And Nigerian peacekeepers operating in Liberia and Sierra Leone have been accused of bias, corruption and unprofessional behavior.

With a $15 million budget put up by the United States, the training program now has camps at Kalama Hill and at Thies, Senegal, and is to be expanded by year's end with camps in Mali, Ethiopia and Malawi. Three other locations are still to be named.

The idea of an all-African peacekeeping force first was floated by then Secretary of State Warren Christopher during an African tour in late 1996. Response was less than enthusiastic. South Africa was downright hostile, fearing Washington wanted it to shoulder the responsibility.

But after Western-led peacekeeping debacles in Somalia and Rwanda -- where U.N.-mandated forces either failed to resolve a conflict or failed to intervene to stop a genocide -- and the rebellion in the former Zaire with its thousands of refugees, the big seven industrial nations and Russia threw their support behind the idea in June.

The United Nations backs the initiative but has not formally endorsed it.

Lt. Ruhinda Robinson, a Ugandan who attended previous Special Forces courses and now is being taught how to train his Ugandan colleagues, said: ``It's teaching us how to defend ourselves. Then ... we can help defend our neighbors.''

Neighboring Sudan is not happy with the U.S. program. An unidentified Sudanese official was quoted in the state-run newspaper Al Anbaa on Thursday as saying the course is a ploy to help Uganda train rebels in southern Sudan.

Sudan has accused Uganda of supporting the Sudan People's Liberation Army in its rebellion. Museveni's government denies that.

Although the Ugandans are being trained for peacekeeping missions, several American instructors acknowledged that the soldiers were most highly motivated by drills that could help them in combat at home.

But Lt. Col. Levi Karahunga, commander of the Ugandan troops, said the two issues are closely related.