The beleaguered commander of the U.N. forces in Rwanda offered a grim assessment Friday: More massacres and warfare are likely and 2.5 million displaced civilians are rapidly running out of food.
"The horror show continues," Maj. Gen. Romeo Dallaire bluntly told a news conference in Nairobi, a day after he came out of Rwanda for a brief respite.Dallaire said desperate Rwandans have been begging him for protection, but his 450-man force is too small to prevent the ongoing slaughters, including two mass killings of Roman Catholic clergymen this week.
"People are writing to us, begging us, for security. And we tell them we just can't get there," Dallaire said. "It's not going to stop unless we get a cease-fire and we get troops on the ground who can monitor the cease-fire."
The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday authorized 5,500 peacekeepers to go to Rwanda, but they are not expected for weeks.
On almost every front, conditions are likely to get worse in Rwanda before they get better, according to Dallaire, who has been in the capital of Kigali since the ethnic massacres began two months ago.
An estimated 200,000 people have been killed, most of them civilians from the minority Tutsi ethnic group slaughtered by the government-trained militias from the majority Hutus.
Government troops are well-entrenched in the center of Kigali, the capital, and in Gitarama, 25 miles to the southwest, where a self-appointed interim government is based.
But rebels of the Rwanda Patriotic Front, a mostly Tutsi group, have largely surrounded the government forces in both strongholds.
Dallaire has been holding cease-fire talks but conceded, "I still see some fighting to come."
The perilous situation has driven most aid groups out of Rwanda, and an estimated 2.5 million displaced civilians are running low on food. The figure includes an estimated 500,000 children whose parents have either been killed or lost in the upheaval.
Dallaire said he's starting to see children in Kigali with bloated bellies, a warning sign of starvation. Hunger-related deaths already have been reported in the south.
"We have to start stockpiling (food) now," he said, noting the nearest port is Mombasa in Kenya, more than 625 miles from the landlocked central African nation.
Most of the displaced people are in the southwest near the Burundi border, and aid groups say it will be difficult to set up feeding operations until the civilians can settle down.