Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 20 Apr 1994

Vol. 441 No. 6

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Rwanda Atrocities.

John Connor


11 Mr. Connor asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps, if any, he is taking at United Nations level to stop the slaughter of thousands of people in Rwanda in view of the events there and the reported decision to withdraw the UN assistance mission from that country; and if he is proposing or supporting the sending of a United Nations or international peace enforcement force to separate the factions and stop the killing in Rwanda and Burundi.

The killing of the Presidents of Rwanda and Burundi on 6 April unleashed a massive wave of violence in Rwanda in which it is reported that up to 20,000 people have been killed. The Government is appalled at the atrocities that have been committed and is deeply concerned at the continuation of the violence. The Security Council of the United Nations has held consultations on Rwanda and is making every effort to facilitate the immediate ceasefire it has called for. The Council has welcomed the willingness of the Organisation of African Unity to promote a ceasefire in Rwanda.

The UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) was established in October last year to assist and monitor a peace agreement reached in Arusha between the Government and the Rwanda Patriotic Front. UNAMIR has a force strength of 2,500 military personnel. The structure and mandate of the force is currently under review by the Security Council which is expected to consider shortly the recommendations of the force commander.

The Government has already expressed its sorrow to the Belgian Government at the brutal killing of ten Belgian military personnel serving with UNAMIR, and I am sure the House would wish to join in this.

The violence and chaos in Rwanda have prompted the forced evacuation of almost all members of the international community, including eight Irish citizens. I wish to thank our partners in the European Union, and in particular the Governments of Belgium and France, for their help.

Ireland and the other members of the European Union have appealed to the opposing forces in Rwanda to bring the violence to an end and to resume negotiations on the basis of the principles in the Arusha agreement. We will continue to support the efforts being made by the UN, by the Organisation of African Unity, and by the European Union to bring about an immediate ceasefire and a return to the negotiating table.

It is all very well to express sympathy with the Belgian Government and say that the Government is appalled by the events in Rwanda, but what exactly is the Government doing, this Government that so often beats its breast and claims to be the champion of the small oppressed countries in the world or countries that fall foul to such horrible events as those taking place in Rwanda? What is the Minister saying in correspondence with the Secretary General of the United Nations about peace enforcement in that country? What instructions is he giving our permanent representative at the United Nations as to what he may say at the General Assembly or to the Secretary General of the United Nations about enforcing peace in that country and returning it to some measure of civilisation and justice?

I am not sure I understand the high moral tone of indignation taken by Deputy Connor. The Government is concerned and I have expressed that concern.

What is the Minister doing?

Many of our officials were concerned last week and much work was done to ensure the safe evacuation of Irish nationals. The problem in Rwanda is extremely complex and I am sure the Deputy, who has much experience of foreign affairs matters, is aware that it will not be solved in any simple manner. The United Nations has a mission there. The future of UNAMIR is under review by the Security Council. Belgium has decided to withdraw some of its 450 troops serving with UNAMIR and that evacuation may begin today. Our permanent representative at the United Nations knows and reflects the concern of the Irish people about the chaos and the carnage and the massacres going on in Kigali, the capital of Rwanda, in fighting between the Government forces and the RPF. Ireland's concern will be reflected by our permanent representative at the United Nations and we will continue, with our European Union partners, to assist in any way possible. If there are methods of assistance we will not be found to have any shortcomings in that regard.