The Militant(logo) 
    Vol.60/No.44           December 9, 1996 
Ottawa Calls For Moving Ahead With Troops To Africa  


Ottawa is still pushing to lead a military intervention in central Africa. Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy announced November 26 that the Canadian government is "proposing to our partners that we go ahead with the establishment of a military headquarters operation in Entebbe, [Uganda,] to help coordinate matters and prepare for future actions, including reconnaissance flights into Zaire." Axworthy also proposed "air drops into Zaire to assist refugees who have the most serious food needs."

Speaking to reporters, the Canadian official acknowledged, "There is no clear cut agreement on specific measures. Our view is that there needs to be some decisions soon on a course of action."

Axworthy spoke four days after representatives of 30 governments and relief organizations met in Stuttgart, Germany, to discuss plans for organizing a military intervention in the region, on the pretext of aiding Rwandan refugees in Zaire. The United Nations Security Council had approved a proposal put forward by Ottawa, with Washington's backing, that the Canadian military spearhead a force of 10,000 - 15,000 troops, with a U.S. officer as the second in command. This plan hit a snag, though, when rebel forces opposed to the crumbling Zairian regime of Mobutu Sese Seko overtook the refugee camps near the Rwandan border, and hundreds of thousands of Rwandans returned to their homes.

Both the Rwandan government and the leadership of the rebels in eastern Zaire have declared opposition to any foreign military intervention.

U.S. and Canadian officials, and others pushing for intervention, assert that as many as 700,000 refugees are still in Zaire. The Rwandan government, which has stated that any foreign troops who land there will be considered hostile, insists that nearly all refugees have returned to Rwanda.

Reports in the big-business press have increasingly focused on "unconfirmed reports" that the rebel forces in Zaire are carrying out massacres against the Rwandans who controlled the refugee camps, known as the Interhamwe militias whose leaders come mostly of the Hutu tribe. Many of these rightists were supporters of the former regime in Rwanda that organized wide-spread massacres there in 1994.  
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