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Friday, July 17, 1998 Published at 15:36 GMT 16:36 UK

World: Africa

UN to withdraw observers from Rwanda

The UN team was called to investigate the 1994 genocide

The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has announced it is withdrawing its observers from Rwanda because the government there has refused to allow them to carry out their work.

BBC's Chris Simpson reports from Kigali
A statement issued in Geneva said talks aimed at resolving the dispute had failed to produce agreement, and the observers would leave by the end of the month.

Disagreement on 'monitoring'

The High Commissioner Mary Robinson's deputy, Enrique Ter Horst, had unsuccessful last-minute negotiations with the Rwandan Government in the capital Kigali, on the observers' mandate.

Rwanda does not want the team to continue with their monitoring duties, restricting their role to that of technical assistance.

The UN rejected this limitation, saying in its statement: "monitoring is an effective tool to identify problems."

A troubled mission

[ image: Refugees returning to Rwanda often fell victims of attacks]
Refugees returning to Rwanda often fell victims of attacks
The 58 UN observers have been trying to investigate alleged abuses by both Hutu rebels and the Tutsi-dominated armed forces.

Five members of the team were murdered last year and in May this year the Rwandan Government suspended the mission, saying it had outlived its usefulness.

This followed a controversial visit of the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, in Kigali, only to be snubbed by the Rwandan Government.

'Chilly' relations

Correspondents describe the relations between the Rwandan government and the United Nations as "chilly".

Although it was the Rwandan Government that had invited the mission, the Kigali government was hostile to much of the mission's work.

Rwanda blames the UN for failing to halt the 1994 genocide of Tutsis, by Hutu extremists, and believes the observers abused their original mandate and failed to investigate the genocide.

'Critical situation'

Earlier this week, the human rights organisation Amnesty International said the situation in Rwanda was critical.

Amnesty said it received almost daily reports of killings and disappearances, and the UN operation, set up in the aftermath of the 1994 genocide, was indispensable for investigating and documenting such cases.

Amnesty said Rwanda had argued that human rights monitoring should now be left to local organisations, but it said it was unclear whether they would be able to operate freely and impartially.

Lack of political will

Diplomats say the fate of the mission in Rwanda is indicative of the problems facing the Human Rights mechanism in the United Nations.

"It neither spoke out and died a glorious death, nor has it concentrated on quiet but successful diplomacy," said one diplomat.

Diplomats said the mission in Kigali had been hampered by lack of political will in Washington, as the Tutsi-dominated government has close military and political ties with the United States.

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