News 2008

Rwanda suggests Kenya use army

`There's no time to go into niceties and debates when killings are taking place'

Jan 31, 2008

Arthur Asiimwe

Reuters News Agency

Kigali, Rwanda The president of Rwanda, which experienced a genocide in 1994, says intervention by the military might be the only way to halt Kenya's escalating ethnic bloodshed.

"This is a case of emergency where certain things have to be done very quickly to stop the killings that are going on," President Paul Kagame said in an interview.

"There's no time to go into niceties and debates when the killings are taking place."

Unrest in Kenya since President Mwai Kibaki's disputed re-election on Dec. 27 has killed about 850 people and displaced over 250,000.

Kagame said Kenya ought to learn a lesson from Rwanda's bloody history.

"It starts with five deaths, then 10, then 50, shortly it grows to 100, then it goes to thousands. ... By the time you realize, it has a dimension that is wiping out life in villages and communities and is getting out of control and the whole political situation is in a mess," he said.

Though Kenyans are horrified by the brutal events in their usually peaceful nation, the situation is far from the ethnic slaughter that killed 800,000 in Rwanda in a three-month killing spree that shocked the world in 1994.

Kagame said the Kenyan army might have to take over before things get worse.

"I know that it is not fashionable and right for the armies to get involved in such a political situation. But in situations where institutions have lost control, I wouldn't mind such a solution," he said.

"I tend to believe that the Kenyan army is professional and has been stable," he added in the interview.

Kagame, a former rebel leader who marched on Rwanda's capital Kigali as the genocide was taking place, said he backed mediation efforts headed by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan, and that any military takeover should be only temporary. Kenya's feuding politicians were to hold a second day of talks brokered by Annan today.

The top U.S. diplomat for Africa yesterday urged Kibaki and opposition leader Raila Odinga to forge a compromise at mediation and said ethnic retaliation had "gone too far."

"There has been an organized effort to push out people from Rift Valley. ... It is clearly ethnic cleansing," Jendayi Frazer, U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said in Ethiopia.

Kibaki will travel to Ethiopia tomorrow to attend a meeting of the 53-nation African Union, expected to be dominated by the crisis in Kenya.

As with other countries in the region, Rwanda's economy has been affected by the chaos in Kenya, as goods and fuel that travel by road from the Indian Ocean coast have been blocked.

Kenyan Internal Security Minister George Saitoti said yesterday police would tolerate no more violence and would ensure railways and roads, economic lifelines for Kenya's neighbours, remained open.