With Zaire pressing for a quick departure of Rwandan refugees, a U.N. special envoy traveled Thursday to Kenya in another round of shuttle diplomacy aimed at speeding up the refugees' repatriation.
The envoy, Shahayar Khan, and Zaire's President Mobutu Sese Seko have agreed to set up a working committee to help return the hundreds of thousands of Rwandans who fled to Zaire to escape the ethnic massacres that claimed 500,000 lives in their homeland.U.N. military spokesman Maj. Jean-Guy Plante said Mobutu, in talks at his Gbadolite palace on Wednesday, insisted the refugees leave Zairian soil as quickly as possible. Earlier reports said Zaire had given an ultimatum requiring the refugees to leave by the end of September.
The huge refugee camps have been plagued by violence between refugees and Zairian troops accused of harassment and cor-rup-tion.
Zaire has also been accused of favoring Hutu extremists in the camps, who have intimidated Tutsi refugees and killed several.
Khan arrived in Zaire's capital, Kinshasha, on Tuesday, where he met with Zairian justice and defense officials and Western diplomats. He also plans to hold talks with leaders of Burundi and Tanzania, where Rwandans also fled.
Plante said Khan was to meet in Kenya on Thursday with Kofi Annan, head of U.N. peacekeeping operations, and travel on to Tanzania.
"The longer we wait, the worse the situation becomes. We will see results soon . . . not in a year, we are talking about months," Plante said.
But before any large-scale repatriation can begin, the refugees are to be separated into groups including soldiers of the ousted government, Hutu militiamen blamed for the massacres of Tutsi civilians.
An estimated 20,000 Hutu troops and 50,000 militiamen fled Rwanda when Tutsi-led rebels of the Rwanda Patriotic Front fought their way to power in July.
Plante said the United Nations was considering a number of possibilities for disarming the soldiers and militiamen, including extending the mandate of U.N. peacekeepers in Rwanda so they can supervise disarmament.
Hutu leaders in exile in Zaire have said they would not return to Rwanda until the new government agrees to a power-sharing arrangement, leading eventually to elections that would likely return Hutus to power as the dominant ethnic group.