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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Rwanda Says Aid Force Not Needed

KIGALI, Rwanda -- The Rwandan government said Monday it did not want any multinational intervention force for eastern Zaire to be based in Rwanda, insisting its mission was irrelevant since most Rwandan refugees had returned home.

Refugees continued to trickle over the border from Goma, north of Lake Kivu, but reports that a huge column was heading towards the town could not be confirmed.

World Food Programme spokeswoman Brenda Barton said 1,000 tired and hungry people, believed to be Rwandan Hutus, arrived at the Rwandan town of Gisenyi over the border from Goma on Sunday after trekking from Bukavu and Uvira, south of the lake.

"One woman said she had left about a month ago," Barton said. "She said there were many people behind her."

Western and African military officials who met in Stuttgart over the weekend agreed on scenarios to help feed the refugees in Zaire but there seemed no real urgency to the effort.

Support for the Canadian-led mission, authorized by the United Nations, has waned because some 600,000 Hutu refugees have returned home to Rwanda en masse since mid-November.

They were fleeing from fighting in the area between Zairean rebels, the Zairean army and Rwandan Hutu hardliners. When the Hutu hardliners were chased out of the refugee camps, the refugees took their chance and went home.

They had left in 1994 after a Tutsi-led army overran the country following the genocide of Tutsis by the Hutu militia.

The Rwandan government thinks the intervention force is at best pointless, and at worst might end up feeding the Hutu hardliners trying to regroup in eastern Zaire.

"Rwanda's position is any foreign force is irrelevant because the bulk of the refugees have returned," said Claude Dusaidi, a senior adviser to Rwandan military strongman Paul Kagame.

"Instead of sending a force, they should send humanitarian aid to Rwanda to help the returnees settle here," he said.

"It's their country," said a Western officer in Kigali, who declined to be named. "If they don't want us here then the force command headquarters will probably be in Kampala, Uganda, and the main operational base will be situated at Entebbe airport."

"There are very few refugees in eastern Zaire right now. I just returned from the border and I saw some coming back," Dusaidi said. "There are very few, perhaps 150,000 to 200,000 just north of Bukavu in Zaire and they are on their way home." U.S. military estimates center on a similar figure.

However, the UN refugee agency UNHCR says there are many more Hutu refugees in eastern Zaire.