Bush calls for Darfur crisis to end
KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) — Speaking on soil once stained with the blood of Rwanda's genocide, President Bush called Tuesday on all nations to step up efforts to end "once and for all" the ethnic slaughter still continuing in Sudan's western Darfur region.
The president said the U.S. is using sanctions, pressure and money to help resolve the Darfur crisis that Bush calls a genocide. But the president, frustrated at the lack of willingness of some other countries to do the same, sought to give his campaign for their increased involvement added weight by making pointed remarks on it from the Rwandan capital.
"The Rwanda people know the horrors of genocide," Bush said after meeting with Rwandan President Paul Kagame. "My message to other nations is: 'Join with the president and help us get this problem solved once and for all.' And we will help."
Rwanda was the first to deploy peacekeepers to the violent Darfur region in a joint African Union-U.N. mission. The United States has trained nearly 7,000 Rwandan troops and spent more than $17 million to equip and airlift them into the region. The U.S. has committed $100 million to train and provide equipment for peacekeepers from several African nations deploying to Darfur.
"I'm not comfortable with how quickly the response has been," the president said.
Bush spoke after a somber visit to the haunting Kigali Memorial Centre. Exhibits there tell the story of Rwanda's 1994 genocide as well as other ethnic slaughter around the world. Mass graves on a trellis-covered hilltop outside hold some remains of about 250,000 people.
Over 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were shot, clubbed and hacked to death in just 100 days by extremist Hutu militias incited by the then-government. It ended when Kagame's rebel forces ousted the Hutu government.
"It's a moving place. It can't help but shake your emotions to their very foundation," Bush said after walking through its rooms and gardens. "There is evil in the world and evil must be confronted."
Later, by Kagame's side, Bush displayed how shaken he was by what he saw. "I just can't imagine what it would have been like to be a citizen who lived in such horrors, and then had to, you know, gather themselves up and try to live a hopeful life," he said.
Bush also pushed Kagame on the continuing conflict in neighboring Congo, where Rwanda has a troubled history.
Many of the Rwandan genocide's perpetrators fled afterward into Congo, prompting fears here of a resurgence. As a result, Rwanda invaded Congo in 1998 and the back-to-back multination wars there killed a staggering 5.4 million people and decimated that country. Rwanda was accused of plundering Congo's resources before the war ended and it pulled its soldiers out in 2002.
Sporadic violence has continued to plague Congo's volatile no-man's-land in the east since, and some suspect Rwanda of still supplying armed groups there. Bush said he and Kagame talked "for a long time" about last year's peace accord between Rwanda and Congo and last month's fragile cease-fire forged between Congo's government and several armed groups. The U.S. helped broker both.
"The most important thing is to get results for the agreement and that's what we discussed today, on how to help bring peace to this part of the world," Bush said.
Bush also drew a parallel to Kenya, where long-simmering ethnic grievances are playing a role in postelection bloodshed.
December presidential elections, which foreign and local observers say were rigged, returned President Mwai Kibaki to power and unleashed weeks of fighting. Much of the violence — shockingly brutal in a country once considered among Africa's most-stable — has pitted other ethnic groups against Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe, resented for traditionally dominating politics and business.
"We've got to pay attention to the warning signs," Bush said. "I'm not suggesting that ... anything close to what happened here is going to happen in Kenya. But I am suggesting there some warning signs that the international community needs to pay attention to."
Bush dispatched Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Nairobi on Monday to meet with Kibaki, the opposition leader, and former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, who is mediating peace talks.
The Rwanda massacre haunted the international community, including the United States under then-President Bill Clinton, for not recognizing the danger and intervening faster.
Bush, pressed about what role his successor can play in preventing genocide, said the lesson is to watch for warning signs — and act.
"The United States can play a very constructive role," Bush said. "I would urge the president not to feel like U.S. solutions can be imposed upon African leaders. ... Don't come to the continent feeling guilty about anything. Come to the continent feeling confident that with some help, people can solve their problems."
Bush stood by his decision not to send U.S. troops to Sudan, but used some of his strongest language to date in blasting the slow pace of the international peacekeeping plan.
"If you're a problem-solver, you put yourself at the mercy of the decisions of others, in this case the United Nations" he said. "I am well known to have spoken out about the slowness of the United Nations ... it seems very bureaucratic to me, particularly with people suffering."
Summing up his advice to the next president, he said: "Take problems seriously before they become acute, and then recognize that there's going to be a slowness in the response if you rely upon international organizations."
Kagame said the United States should not be viewed as the world's problem-solver.
"The problems and the solutions for those problems should not be taken away ... from places where they are taking place," he said.
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