Facebook Twitter

AID BYPASSES RWANDA GOVERNMENT

SHARE AID BYPASSES RWANDA GOVERNMENT

Tons of food and donated goods from around the world are resupplying and fattening Rwanda's exiled, genocidal Hutu regime as it plots a bloody return to power.

The new government, meanwhile, is bankrupt, powerless and at the mercy of a world seemingly indifferent to its struggle to heal a shattered society and rebuild a nation."I'm stumped. And I think it's just scandalous," said Chris Hennemeyer of Catholic Relief Services. "Either there is a massive conspiracy to keep Rwanda down . . . or the world community is incredibly incompetent."

Whatever the intent, international actions since the holocaust began in this tiny Central African nation have consistently helped the killers:

- When Rwanda's president, a Hutu, was killed in a suspicious plane crash April 6 and order collapsed, the United Nations withdrew most of its troops. That freed the Hutu army and its affiliated militias to butcher an estimated 500,000 people, mostly ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

- In July, the Tutsi-led rebels of the Rwandan Patriotic Front toppled the remnants of the Hutu-dominated government, which promptly urged more than a million countrymen to flee with it into neighboring Zaire. In the ensuing four months, relief groups have spent hundreds of millions of dollars to feed, shelter and care for the survivors and perpetrators of the bloodletting.

- Of the $1.5 billion spent so far on the Rwanda crisis, $850 million has gone to help refugees outside the borders. The millions earmarked for rebuilding in Rwanda are controlled by the aid organizations for chosen programs; Rwanda's bankrupt government is powerless to help itself.

"It's so unfair. It's so perverted. It's so disgusting. You keep searching for an explanation," said Rakiya Omaar of African Rights, a London-based humanitarian group.

Cruel explanations exist, of course.

The World Bank can't make a loan until the new government pays the old government's outstanding debts.

Aid organizations are flush with donations from around the globe but aren't allowed to give humanitarian assistance to a partisan government.

Similarly, the U.N. World Food Program may not help feed the national army, which is unpaid and in danger of disintegrating into a thieving mob. But it does feed former soldiers and militiamen who control the refugee camps by stealing relief supplies and holding hostage many people who want to return to Rwanda.

"The international community finds it easier to give largess, money, bounty to a humanitarian crisis because no one questions it," said Shaharyar Khan, the United Nations' special envoy to Rwanda. "But due consideration needs to be given to getting the ship of state afloat again, too."

Omaar agreed. Relief organizations "respond better to a refugee situation - it's manageable," he said.

In the squalid camps around Goma, Zaire, cholera is largely conquered. Malnutrition is a greater worry now as hard-eyed young men at ramshackle wooden stands sell sacks and cans of food clearly labeled as humanitarian donations.

Most of these merchants of purloined goods are believed to be members of the Hutu militias responsible for much of the ethnic carnage.

This relief travesty occurs because U.N. and private agencies merely deliver food to the camps. Its distribution is handled by the Hutu bosses, who use it to reward loyalists and punish those they label traitors. Brenda Barton, spokeswoman for the World Food Program, estimates 25 percent of food sent to the camps is being pilfered and sold in the camps' markets.

The camp leaders use other means of intimidation, too. Stabbed and beaten bodies are found in the camps almost daily; aid workers blame Hutu leaders for the murders of dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people who have tried to go home.

Major aid agencies have threatened to pull out of the camps unless the United Nations provides protection for their workers, some of whom have been briefly kidnapped by Hutu thugs.

Last week, the Security Council voted to keep 5,500 U.N. peacekeepers in Rwanda until June 9, 1995, but delayed action on committing up to 5,000 troops for camp security until member nations could be consulted.

Referring to the thousands of defeated Hutu soldiers and militiamen living in camps near Goma, the council said it was "alarmed at the indications that these groups and individuals may be preparing for an armed invasion of Rwanda."