I thank Senator Fitzgerald and Senator Maloney for their kind comments. I was proud to represent Ireland in Rwanda, a small country the size of Munster. Zaire is a large country the size of western Europe. We have, as a result of our historical experience and peace process, an understanding of the complexity of trying to build reconciliation and trust and rebuild the countries involved as well.
The European Union has offered a substantial humanitarian package to the Great Lakes region of 170 million ECU which is absolutely essential. We must examine four separate areas in this crisis because it is complex. We must examine Rwanda, Zaire, Burundi and Tanzania.
Over 500,000 refugees have returned to Rwanda which, as Senator Lanigan will know from his participation in the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs, is little short of a miracle compared to a month ago. So far, those people have returned in conditions of remarkable peace, without any violence or killing. In order to sustain that, it will be necessary for the European Union, Ireland and the development agencies to put money, resources and effort into supporting the return being maintained on a peaceful basis. I cannot stress the importance of that. We need to supply money for food and seeds for the first planting season to make refugees self-sufficient. Rwanda is a very crowded but very fertile country with a lot of potential as it has volcanic soil and two to three crops per year can be grown.
Second, we must put more money in the medium-term into housing provision for refugees. This is a big political problem. At the moment, the Rwandan Government has told people, some of whom are survivors of the genocide and took over empty houses, that they have 15 days to get out and make way for the returning refugees, some of whom are implicated in the killings of the families of those who survived and occupied the houses. In order to sort out this political and humanitarian situation — the need for both parties to have shelter — there has to be a huge housebuilding effort in Rwanda. This will be done by local people, using local materials such as bricks which are easily handmade, but with the international community supplying the money for door and window kits and tin for the roofs. Rwandans can work in partnership with the international agencies to build hundreds of thousands of shelters and housing units, which will be important in the long-term.
The issue of justice must be addressed. There are more than 80,000 people in Rwandan jails who are accused, to a greater or lesser extent, of involvement in and or the carrying out of genocide. They will be brought to trial in the next few months. In assisting the Rwandan Government, Irish aid has specifically funded elements of the justice system. Some of the many people returning home will inevitably be charged with genocide. We must insist on the Rwandan Government putting a justice system in place. I visited Rwandan jails. No jail in Africa is a pretty place and Mountjoy is a paradise — it is first class luxury — by comparison. Many prisons in Rwanda would be similar to this Chamber holding 2,000 people standing up. Prisoners are well provided for as regards water, food and medicine and there are no complaints of ill-treatment. However, there is the most inhuman overcrowding it is possible to imagine, resulting in phlebitis, other diseases and the risk of prisoner's legs rotting. The justice system is important, both as a human rights issue and as a focus and force for reconciliation in Rwandan society. The European Union should be willing to assist Rwanda in rebuilding all the areas I have spoken about, as well as in health and education.
Zaire is the second country we need to address. It is a large country with more than 300 major national ethnic groups. The rebel forces, some Banyamulenge and some who have been fighting since the time of Lumumba — it was Ireland's first international peacekeeping involvement — have come together in East Kivu. The EU is supporting an election process in Zaire, which must be open to the participation of all Zaireans. The Banyamulenge have been there for 300 years and cannot suddenly be deprived of their Zairean citizenship. Equally, along the borders of the eight countries to Zaire, different groups cannot be picked out and told they are no longer Zairean. We are dealing with borders drawn by the great powers in the aftermath of the Berlin and Vienna Conferences at the turn of the century. We must ensure that, if possible, Zaire proceeds to change to the post-Mobutu period by peaceful means rather than having a civil war. An election would be the keynote to peace. Somebody involved in our intricate peace process could offer suggestions on what is critical.
Burundi is in a dangerous state and there has been much killing by the army. We do not have the full details because the international agencies do not have access to Burundi. There has been some separation of men from women and children among returning refugees and some of the men have been subject to arbitrary execution and killing by the army in Burundi. President Nyerere of Tanzania was in Dublin earlier this week. He proposed that now is the time to engage the two parties in Burundi in negotiation. We support this. Now is also the time to insist that the humanitarian agencies have access to Burundi so that we can find out what is going on and deter the random killing which appears to be taking place.
Tanzania at the moment has about 500,000 Rwandan Burundian refugees on its western border. The town of Kigoma received more than 90,000 refugees in the last week in addition to the 500,000 who have already been in Tanzania for some time. The good news is that the Rwandan refugees in Tanzania are sending emissaries to say they want to come home. They are selling their possessions. That is another 400,000 going home to an area the size of Munster which now has a population of almost 7,000,000 people. This must constitute the greatest mass movement of people in history in such a small concentrated area. We and the Tanzanians would like to see those people going home. They will need support to ensure their return is as peaceful as possible.
In relation to the refugees in Zaire, there has been a debate about the numbers involved and whether it is 380,000 or 750,000. This is obscene — what if it is not 750,000 but "only" 300,000? This is a vast number of refugees and we must have access to them in order to assist them.
Ireland has supported the UN proposal in relation to the temporary multinational force. During the Troika's visit we stressed that the force should have a clear mandate to disarm the armed elements who are still in Zaire — the Interhamwe and the militia who planned, plotted and committed genocide and who would still carry it out if they had the capacity and could get back into Rwanda. An international force that does not have a mandate on disarmament has one hand tied behind its back before it even goes in. We want the force to provide security for the humanitarian agencies and the returning refugees. Above all, we want them to disarm the genocidal elements in Eastern Zaire — the Interhamwe, the militia and the ex-army of Rwanda.
Even though the force is not fully constituted, something could be done while the discussions on it are proceeding. I urge the generals to go as observers to Eastern Zaire, establish the numbers of people there and the kind of assistance they need. They could set up their headquarters in Kampala where food is held under the World Food Programme and they could move it into Zaire and the areas where it is needed. It is so glaringly obvious I do not understand why they are not doing it at the moment.
There are larger questions about the mandate and size of the force. In my view, a smaller force is now appropriate. Two and a half weeks ago, I would have told the force to disarm Mugunga camp. That did not happen but Mugunga camp is now free. I would have told the force to bring lorries so people could be saved a 100 mile walk home. This week I would tell them to go to Zaire with lorries and food and tell us the number of people there and their needs. They could give them the kind of assistance they need and help the international agencies to get to them. Next week the force could be required to do something different. This week, it could do a job that could save a significant number of lives. I find the discussion of numbers obscene. Many people left refugee camps four weeks ago and they need our support. As Senator Maloney said, the Irish Government has set aside £2.25 million to meet this crisis and has also established an extremely good working relationship with the Irish agencies in Rwanda. The agencies are standing by ready to assist in Zaire and Burundi if they have the capacity but it must be safe for them to do so.
We have also devoted money and attention to monitoring human rights. Some £250,000 has been released for this operation in Rwanda and it will provide for up to 300 human rights monitors. It is important that the plight of refugees who have returned home under peaceful conditions be monitored. If there are human rights abuses or revenge killings they can be brought to light as quickly as possible and dealt with.
It made me feel proud and humble to see the work being done by Irish aid agencies. I endorse their appeal to the Irish public for financial support in the run up to Christmas. Irish agencies in particular are working to re-unite lost children with their parents. At each border crossing, there are a couple of thousand children who are lost or left. In some cases children who could not walk were left behind by their mothers in Zaire and at the border. The agencies perform an excellent job reuniting those children with their parents and for that alone the Irish public should be as generous as it can be to the different agencies.