Author-card of document number 13223

Thursday April 14, 1994
Belgium mourns Rwandan dead, last troops set to leave
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BRUSSELS, April 14 (Reuter) - Belgium on Thursday mourned 16 of its
people killed in Rwanda and said it would pull its United Nations
peacekeepers out of the country.

At a ceremony in Brussels King Albert and government ministers paid
homage to 10 Belgian paratroops killed in Kigali last week as an orgy
of bloodletting swept the Rwandan capital after the death of the

Six Belgian civilians were also killed in the violence.

Belgian foreign minister Willy Claes said on Thursday that Belgium had
decided to withdraw its contingent of U.N peacekeepers from Rwanda.

We do not believe that the presence of the blue helmets in the current
situation makes any sense,
he told a press conference.

Around 200 distraught relatives and friends of the dead soldiers stood
silently in the military chapel as the coffins were carried in, each
decorated with a simple spray of lilies and drapped with the Belgian

The king, visibly moved, spent several minutes talking to members of
the soldiers' families, taking the arm of one crying woman and holding
the hand of a young man clearly racked with grief.

Outside the military hospital where the ceremony took place dozens of
people, including Belgians evacuated from Rwanda, gathered in silence.

The government said flags would fly at half mast from Thursday to
midday Saturday for our victims in Rwanda and a minute's silence was
observed at military bases throughout the country.

The soldiers were killed as they tried to protect Rwandan prime
minister Agathe Uwilingyimana.

Claes said the presence of the U.N. troops had not prevented the deaths
of tens of thousands of people and there was such an anti-Belgian
climate in the country that Belgium could no longer take the
responsibilty of endangering its soldiers further.

The Belgian blue helmets will stay under no circumstances, Claes told
a news conference. No matter what the decision of the (U.N.) Security
Council may be, they will not continue to take part in the (U.N.

U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali said on Wednesday he had
called for plans to be drawn up for a possible withdrawal of the U.N.
force in Rwanda in the light of Belgium's decision to pull out its
420-man contingent.

He said he was notified of Belgium's intention when he met Claes in
Bonn on Tuesday.

Defence Minister Leo Delcroix said on Belgian radio the troops could
take several weeks to leave but paratroops sent to evacuate nationals
are expected to leave within a few days.

We're in Rwanda with quite a bit of material. As a result it will take
a few days at least to get the logistical operation behind us, and for
the whole (withdrawal) perhaps a few weeks,
Delcroix told Belgian BRTN

The withdrawal from Rwanda was Belgium's Saigon, the Belgian daily De
Standaard said comparing it to the U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam in

There were an estimated 1,500 Belgians in Rwanda, the largest group of

An army spokesman said there were practically no more Belgian civilians
left in Rwanda but paratroops were still searching for a few remaining
Westerners outside the capital.

Belgian paratroops protecting the French School evacuation point in
central Kigali pulled out overnight.

(c) Reuters Limited 1994

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