A massacre earlier this month of at least 327 mostly Tutsi refugees by Hutu insurgents at a camp in northwest Rwanda is “a resurgence of genocide,” Clinton administration officials asserted Thursday.
State Department spokesman James P. Rubin said the U.S. government will not act on its own but is prepared to assist in any international effort to bring the killers to justice.
“The Mudene camp massacre, the second in four months at that refugee camp, represents a resurgence of genocide in the northwest region of Rwanda,” Rubin said in a statement to reporters while Secretary of State adeleine Albright was here for talks with Palestinian Authority President Yasser Arafat.
Last week, at the Organization of African Unity in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Albright chided the world community for its slow application of the term “genocide” to the 1994 slaughter of at least 500,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu by the army of the Hutu-led government then in power. In the wake of the ethnic murders, the government was overthrown by the Tutsi-led regime now in power.
World leaders had been reluctant to call the 1994 rampage genocide, because, under an international convention, all governments then must try to bring to justice anyone accused of trying to wipe out racial, ethnic, or religious groups. But Albright said the 1994 killings should have been termed a genocide when they were occurring.
Rubin based his statement on a report from David Scheffer, ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, who investigated the Dec. 10 killings, carried out just hours before Albright arrived in Rwanda as part of a week’s tour of Africa. The report blamed the killings on members of the Hutu-dominated army of the former Rwandan regime and its allies in the Interhamwe militia.
“The number of murdered Congolese Tutsi refugees and perhaps some insurgents at Mudende camp appears to be 327, including those who have died of wounds,” Rubin said. “We have not been able to substantiate reports of larger numbers of killed refugees.
“These criminal acts have rightly outraged the international community,” he added. “Initiatives must be taken to bring to justice individuals accountable for these crimes and to prevent future acts of genocide.”
A senior official said that while the United States backs the genocide convention, U.S. law does not permit American forces to invade foreign countries to arrest suspects. Therefore, any response must now be coordinated by the United Nations, Organization of African Unity or some other international body.