Zairian rebels declare a unilateral cease-fire

KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) — With the international community threatening to intervene, Zairian Tutsi rebels declared a cease-fire Monday in eastern Zaire and agreed to allow aid agencies to try to get Hutu refugees home to Burundi and Rwanda.
Fighting between Tutsi-led rebels and Zairian troops has forced hundreds of thousands of refugees to flee their U.N. camps, venturing deeper into Zaire and farther from the reach of aid workers. Diplomats and aid groups met Monday in two African capital to discuss what to do next.
The recent cross-border warfare began three weeks ago, choking off road and air routes for emergency food into the region and pushing aid workers last week to evacuate.
In a statement read on British Broadcasting Corp. radio, Tutsi spokesman Laurent Kabila said the cease-fire took effect Monday morning. “We declare a unilateral cease-fire starting immediately for three weeks,” Kabila said.
In Rwanda, news came that the capital of eastern Zaire, Goma, was quiet after four days of gun and mortar fire.
The 1.2 million refugees have destabilized the lakes region along Zaire’s border with Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda, spreading political and ethnic fighting. Whether the refugees will voluntarily return home — of if safe passage is guaranteed — is unknown.
The Hutu refugees followed their defeated army into exile in July 1994 after Rwanda’s former Hutu extremist government slaughtered at least 500,000 people, mostly Tutsis.
The Hutus have refused to return, fearing reprisals for the genocide. In the past few weeks, rebels have overrun the camps where the Hutus live north and south of Lake Kivu.
French Foreign Minister Herve de Charette urged European nations, the United States, Canada and the Organization of African Unity to meet immediately and “organize the possible means to temporarily secure” eastern Zaire to feed the refugees. Charette did not specify what measures he was suggesting.
The global community swiftly mobilized to try to take advantage of the promised cease-fire.
U.N. envoy Sergio Vierra de Mello, assistant U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, arrived in Kigali to meet with Rwandan officials about the creation of a “humanitarian corridor” to allow food to pass safely to refugees and for them to safely return home.
“They must return, this exile has gone on too long. You saw the result of it,” he said referring to the war. “We have to do everything so that they can come back home.”
De Mello said there was no need for military intervention in eastern Zaire. “We’ve had similar experiences in many different situations. You don’t necessarily need to guard them if there exists a set of guarantees and agreements with those who are in control of a given territory.” U.S. Ambassador to Rwanda, Robert Gribbins, endorsed the idea of a humanitarian corridor to return refugees and agreed that no military force was needed.
Regional foreign ministers were meeting in Nairobi on Monday to prepare for a summit of east African leaders called by Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi to tackle the crisis, which threatens to destabilize the entire region.
However, an adviser to Zaire’s ailing President Mobutu Sese Soko said Zaire would not take part in the summit Tuesday as long as Rwanda pretends that its army is not involved in the area alongside local Tutsi rebels.
Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu said in a statement addressed to the Rwandan refugees, “Your place is in Rwanda and nowhere else.”
He asked for international help to repatriate the refugees and to guarantee a cease-fire.