France sent troops into Rwanda today, beginning a complex mission to
protect civilians in a conflict that has produced horrendous blood
baths in the past 11 weeks and shows no sign of ending.
French troops in armored vehicles and helicopters crossed from Zaire
this afternoon to assess the situation of 8,000 Tutsi threatened by
troops of the Hutu-dominated Government and irregular Hutu militias,
Defense Ministry officials said.
The soldiers, who advanced 60 miles into Rwanda, reported no clashes
and said the refugees they found, near Cyangugu, were not in immediate
danger, the officials said. Marine and Foreign Legion units are to go
deeper into Rwanda on Friday.
In response to the military operation, rebels of the Tutsi-dominated
Rwandan Patriotic Front expelled French aid workers, medical personnel
and journalists from areas under rebel control, including parts of
Kigali, the capital. They also expelled some French-speaking West
Africans serving with the United Nations.
A rebel spokesman in Paris said the front did not want the death of
any French citizen to serve as an excuse for a full-scale military
France, which once supported the Government, insists that it has no
military or political objectives, but that it is forced to act because
no other nation is willing to stop the violence, in which hundreds of
thousands are thought to have been killed.
But the rebels denounced the troops as
invaders who, under the guise
of humanitarianism, have come to give
breathing space to Government
troops, who have been ousted from large swaths of the country.
Because of the rebels' hostility, top military and civilian officials
in Paris have described the mission as complicated and risky, all the
more because French troops are under orders not to seize any areas or
set up bases in Rwanda.
Our troops will be making incursions but they will set up no bases in said Gerard Araud, an aide to Defense Minister Francois
Leotard. He said the troops are to assess the needs of refugees
regardless of ethnic origin.
Searching for a Refuge
If groups of refugees are in danger, the soldiers will move them if Mr. Araud said, for example, by escorting Tutsi refugees to
areas controlled by the rebels. It may be more difficult to protect
anti-Government Hutu from pro-Government troops and militias.
We prefer to move in and out of the country from Zaire, Mr. Araud
But if it is really necessary, if people are in danger of being
massacred, we will stay and protect them.
But French strategy, he explained, would not be to move refugees into
neighboring countries. Zaire, for example, is already overwhelmed.
The French troops have been given a clear mandate to fight in order to
protect civilians and themselves. Some French soldiers who helped
evacuate foreigners from Rwanda in April said they had been horrified
by having to stand by while gangs attacked and murdered civilians; the
soldiers had orders not to intervene.
The Defense Ministry said more than 700 troops were at three bases in
Zaire close to the Rwandan border; the rest of the 2,500 troops are to
arrive by the weekend to set up field hospitals near Goma and Bukavu
while medical teams travel with paratroopers into Rwanda.
Rebels Are Critical
Jacques Bihozagara, a representative of the rebels, said after talks
today with Foreign Minister Alain Juppe that he had told Mr. Juppe
that the plan was
commendable but that as a matter of principle, the
front could approve military intervention only by the United Nations.
France is not neutral, he said.
It has been in Rwanda for three During the past
years. It has seen massacres and not stopped them.
three years, France has provided money, troops and military advisers
to the Government.
We will not go out of our way to fight French soldiers, he
But if we come across them, we will treat them as invaders.
Few Allies Help France
NAIROBI, Kenya, June 23 (Special to The New York Times) -- The French
military intervention in Rwanda has attracted only limited
international support, and a highly skeptical response from diplomats
and relief workers.
Three of Rwanda's neighbors, Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi, denied
France permission to stage operations from their territory. And
Zimbabwe said today that France's action might prompt African
countries that had pledged troops to a United Nations peacekeeping
force to rethink their position.
On Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council approved France's
intervention, but there were 5 abstentions among the 15 members. Only
Senegal has promised to send troops; Egypt and Italy have offered
I have not talked with anyone who thinks this is an intelligent said one diplomat here, who like other diplomats and relief
workers would speak only on the condition of anonymity.
Let me be
more diplomatic -- it is fraught with danger.
What support there is stems from frustration with the United Nations
and the feeling that something had to be done to stop the carnage. But
whether the French action will do that is questioned by diplomats and
relief workers, who fear it might instead lead to more killing because
of France's earlier support for the Rwandan Government.