24 May 1996


24 May 1996

Press Briefing



At a press conference at Headquarters this morning, Manzi Bakuramutsa, Permanent Representative of Rwanda, told correspondents that his country was calling for an emergency meeting of the Security Council to take immediate action to prevent genocide in eastern Zaire, where at least 3,000 Tutsis of Rwandan origin were surrounded by the same extremist forces that had massacred 1 million Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda two years ago.

Mr. Bakuramutsa emphasized that despite strong pleas by the International Committee of the Red Cross, Medecins sans Frontieres and other groups, the United Nations and the international community had not taken corrective action to halt the bloodshed. Medecins sans Frontieres, an international humanitarian organization, had warned that unless urgent action was taken at least 3,000 Tutsi families were likely to be massacred by armed extremists. On 12 May, approximately 100 Tutsis living in Zaire were slaughtered in an attack on a Trappist monastery in Mokoto. More than 65,000 had fled their homes in Zaire's Masisi region since April to escape ethnic violence. The conflict in Masisi had displaced approximately 250,000 since late last year.

He went on to say that the extremists were the same military forces of the former Rwandan government who had fled to Zaire in 1994 and now operated there with impunity. He said they were receiving support from soldiers of Zaire and thus from the Government of Zaire. Three countries -- the United States, Belgium and France -- had supposedly agreed to pressure President Mobutu of Zaire, but the "troika" was no longer performing its task. He pointed out that while President Mobutu had been denied a visa to visit the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia, United States, he had been given a visa to enter France. France was obviously giving support to the President of Zaire.

The United Nations could have taken action, he continued, but the Security Council did not seem to know what was going on in Zaire. That indicated a negligence on the part of the United Nations regarding Rwanda. There seemed to be a double standard at work in the United Nations when it came to dealing with problems of some small countries. Many of the things the United Nations wanted to do in Rwanda ran counter to the needs and wishes of its Government. Whatever solution the United Nations had brought to the problems in Rwanda seemed to be the inappropriate one.

He cited the example of the "famous office" that the United Nations wanted to establish in Kigali. The purpose of the office was not clear. Rwanda had no problem with the establishment of the office and was quite willing to accept it, but the United Nations kept talking about it and could not decide what the office would do. Instead of dealing with a situation

Rwanda Press Conference - 2 - 24 May 1996

where people were dying, the United Nations seemed more interested in such things as the disposal of "unserviceable equipment".

The United Nations was incapable of dealing with the group that was infiltrating into Burundi, Rwanda and now Uganda, he said. Rwanda had advised the United Nations for a long time on what action could be taken, but the United Nations did not listen. The Organization claimed to be consulting with the Rwandan Government, but it ignored what the Government proposed. Rwanda wanted help in addressing the situation in Zaire, before it was too late and the people were exterminated. The problems of the region had been addressed in pieces and not in a holistic manner.

To a question about the overall picture in the region, the Ambassador stressed that the culture of impunity was the greatest problem facing the region. People who had committed genocide were not punished. Such impunity encouraged those same people to continue their killing, to continue to attack Rwanda. It sent a message to the people in Burundi to do the same.

When asked what Rwanda expected from the Council and from the Organization as a whole, he replied that the Council should condemn the situation and take action. He had written a formal letter to the Council President requesting that action be taken and had spoken with a representative of the Non-Aligned caucus in the Council. He noted the action that the Council had taken in Sudan over just two people who had been accused of criminal activity. Why couldn't they take as much action in the situation in Zaire where there were many more criminals?

The five permanent members of the Council were aware of the situation. However, while the people who were responsible for the killing in Rwanda were moving with impunity throughout the world, some members of the Council appeared to be protecting them. Although the United Nations always seemed to do things that harmed rather than helped Rwanda, such as the arms embargo or the continuation of United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda, he wanted the Organization to face its responsibilities.

What was the Government of Rwanda prepared to do to protect the people in Zaire? a correspondent asked. Mr. Bakuramutsa replied that the Government was not weak and would take action if necessary. Rwanda, however, respected international law. The Government would not allow the continued killing of its citizens and of those people who identified themselves with Rwanda. It could take action to defend its people in the same way that France defended its own language.

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For information media. Not an official record.