UN okays Rwandan general for Darfur force

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UNITED NATIONS, Sep 18 (Reuters) The United Nations has agreed to the appointment of a Rwandan general as deputy commander of the Darfur force, saying there was not enough evidence against him to support allegations of human rights abuses.

Maj Gen Karenzi Karake has taken up his position in Darfur to help supervise formation of the joint African Union-U.N. force.

Rwanda fields some 2,000 of the 7,000 AU troops now in Darfur.

UN spokeswoman Michele Montas said yeserday the appointment was on track because ''there was not enough evidence for anything to change'' after a number of organizations had been asked to support allegations by Rwandan exiles.

The African Union, which approved Karake last month, and the United Nations, which had said it was investigating, did not ''want to exclude the candidate on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations,'' Montas said. She said the case would be reconsidered if further information emerged.

But Steve Cranshaw, UN advocacy director of New York-based Human Right Watch, said ''very serious questions have been raised about his record.'' ''It seems to us that these things have to be looked at carefully. One really needs to pursue these to find out what the truth is,'' he said.

Jean-Baptiste Mbera Bahizi, secretary-general of the Brussels-based United Democratic Forces, a Rwandan exile opposition group, has accused Karake of supervising extra-judicial killings of civilians before and after the Tutsi-led Rwanda Patriotic Front rebels took power in Rwanda following the genocide there.

In 1994, militant Hutus killed about 800,000 Rwandans, mainly Tutsis.

The Rwandan Foreign Ministry has lambasted Mbera's group as ''an amalgamation of extremist fugitives known for their genocide ideology and hostility against the Government.'' The UN tribunal investigating the 1994 genocide in Rwanda is unable to prosecute cases against the army because it would lose Kigali's cooperation on other cases, diplomats say.

Mbera, in an interview with Reuters two weeks ago, also accused troops under Karake's command of massacres in central Rwanda in 1994, and in neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo and near the Congo border.

Others say Karake is alleged to have had some command responsibility for a sector in which massacres were carried out in 1995 and 1996 by the Rwandan Patriotic Army, although not on the scale of the 1994 genocide.

The UN Security Council last month authorized up to 19,555 military personnel and 6,432 civilian police for the new force. The commander of the joint force is Gen. Martin Agwai of Nigeria. The force aims to protect civilians in Darfur, where more than 2.5 million people have fled their homes and an estimated 200,000 have died in the conflict in the past four years.

Reuters SS DB1057

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