Author-card of document number 13195

Wednesday April 13, 1994
Rwanda rebels say they fight to end ethnic hatred
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MULINDI, RWANDA, April 14 (Reuter) - Rwandan guerrillas battling
government troops for the capital Kigali are a disciplined force whose
cause was born out of four decades of bloodshed between rival Hutu and
Tutsi tribes.

Many of the 20,000 Rwanda Patriotic Front (RPF) fighters are Tutsis who
grew up in exile after their families fled uprisings by Hutus who
overthrew the Tutsi monarchy in 1959.

But RPF leaders deny they are tribally motivated and say their aim is
to abolish a system which promoted ethnic hatred under President
Juvenal Habyarimana, killed in a plane crash a week ago.

When this war started it was portrayed as a conflict between ethnic
RPF political figurehead, Alexis Kanyarengwe, himself a Hutu,
told Reuters this week.

The international community has ignored Habyarimana's deplorable
record in office,
he said.

As an example of this system, the rebels point to the identity cards
which Rwandans are forced to carry and which include the owner's ethnic

The ethnic groups include the Tutsi, who were once the feudal overlords
of Rwanda and traditionally kept cattle; the Hutu who were the serf
class and farmers and the Twa tribe of pygmies who were

However the three groups speak the same language and have the same
culture, Rwandans say.

The RPF formed in exile in 1987 and known as Inkontanyi -- which means
resolution in the Rwandan language -- invaded northern Rwanda from
neighbouring Uganda as a 10,000-strong force on October 1 1990.

Some of the oldest supporters were veterans of six invasions by Tutsi
exiles known by their enemies as the Inyenzi -- the insect -- during
the 1960s.

The invasions had sparked ethnic reprisals against Tutsis which
philosopher Bertrand Russell condemned in 1964 as The most horrible
and systematic human massacre we have had occassion to witness since
the extermination of the Jews by Nazis.

But the bulk of the rebels including their chief Fred Rwigyema who was
killed on the second day of the invasion has been hardened by years of
fighting in the army of Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni.

One of their main aims has been to win the right of tens of thousands
of refugees to return to Rwanda, a tiny and overpopulated nation of 7.5
million which Habyarimana often said was like a jug already full of

We came home and found the doors closed in our faces, were the words
of a war song chanted by foot-stamping rebels at the battlefront in the
misty hills this week.

The highly mobile force of rebels follow a strict code of discipline
and is armed with AK-47 rifles, mortars and anti-aircraft guns which
they use against infantry units.

They have been backed by Uganda and are funded by contributions from
exiles which have paid for their own radio station and a team of 40
field doctors, say experts on the movement.

Fighting a well equipped army and regrouping after Fred Rwigyema under
Major-General Paul Kagame, the RPF spent months hiding under a string
of volcanoes where Rwanda's celebrated gorillas live.

Their ranks were swelled by recruits from Rwanda as well as from
Burundi, Tanzania and Zaire.

They gained ground in a series of offensives up to February last year
but signed a peace accord with Habyarimana and other opposition parties
at internationally-brokered peace talks in August 1993.

The accord allowed for a new all-party government to rule Rwanda ahead
of multi-party polls in 1995, the integration of RPF into the national
army and the repatriation of refugees.

The accord barely got off the ground before Habyarimana was killed and
rebels began streaming down through the steep valleys in a bid to flush
out government forces and restore order.

RPF officials say they want to adhere to the nine-month-old peace
accord and set up a new all-party transitional government but they also
promise to ban hardline parties which promote ethnic hatred.

(c) Reuters Limited 1994

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