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Monday, 6 June 1994
Page: 1292

Senator HARRADINE —My question is directed to the Leader of the Government in the Senate. The government no doubt considers that the situation in Rwanda is so grave, so horrendous, that international intervention is called for. What options are available for coordinated international action to prevent the massacre—indeed, the genocide—that is occurring in Rwanda? What action is in fact on foot to achieve this purpose? What action is the Australian government taking to promote this intervention? Will the Prime Minister, during his current overseas visit, press this objective with heads of government?

Senator GARETH EVANS —In terms of preventive action to stop further massacres, the international action that is primarily taking place at the moment is diplomatic, with endeavours not only by the UN but also by the Organisation of African Unity and regional governments, most recently those meeting in Harare, to broker a permanent cease-fire and to resume the Arusha peace process. Regrettably, those diplomatic activities so far have largely come to naught and it does remain a matter of speculation as to whether they are going to be any more successful in the days and weeks immediately ahead.

  That then raises the question, as Senator Harradine put it, of some kind of interventionist activity by the international community in the nature of what we describe as a peace enforcement operation. The difficulty about that, however, remains what has always been the difficulty in the UN's consideration of that in recent weeks. I think everybody acknowledges that a force of quite a considerable number of troops and other personnel—maybe of the order of magnitude of 20,000, 30,000 or indeed even 40,000 troops—would be required for such an operation to be effective.

  The unhappy reality is that all the indications are that the will is just not there in the international community—among the permanent five members of the UN, the other members of the Security Council or other major potential donors—to enable that kind of an enforcement operation to take place. So, if we are talking about the inability to mount an enforcement action, either through UN auspices or through other regional African governments, for example, what we are left with is something in the nature of a peacekeeping operation or a smaller scale operation simply designed to identify and protect particular enclaves in the border area or elsewhere, to enable physical protection to be given to people within those enclaves and to enable the supplies of relief goods to them. That is, of course, the concept of operations that is presently being developed by the UN and hopefully it will bear some fruit in the next few days in terms of a workable concept that we and other countries can respond to.

  We want to be responsive in a sympathetic way to this situation, which is appalling. But, as I have said on a number of occasions, one can run a peacekeeping operation or a humanitarian support operation of this kind only if it is essentially limited in scope and carefully defined, and the resources are in fact there to enable it to be done properly. One can run a peace enforcement operation only if very much larger-scale resources are available. Regrettably, it does not appear as if that condition will be able to be satisfied. So it is an extremely unhappy situation—there are no two ways about it.

  At the moment on the ground in Rwanda the deep anxiety is that, as the war continues and as the RPF continues to push south towards Burundi, there may be further massacres generated by that activity as the government forces retreat, take their revenge or engage in some kind of pre-emptive activity, in particular against Tutsi members of the population in those southern and western areas. This is something we are all deeply concerned about. But I have to say that, sitting here where we are and not being in a position to influence the larger course of events except by discussion at the margin, we are essentially prisoners of the action that others are willing to take. The situation so far as others are concerned who are in a better position to influence the course of events is as I have described it. It is not a happy response that I have given Senator Harradine, but I am afraid it is an accurate one as to what the current state of play is.

Senator HARRADINE —Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. Is the Prime Minister raising these matters specifically with the heads of government during his current visit overseas? Could the minister detail to the Senate, either now or at some time later, in precise financial terms how much Australia is committing to humanitarian assistance for Rwanda?

Senator GARETH EVANS —In terms of our humanitarian assistance, we have already contributed, I think, $1.5 million and are certainly willing to do more in that respect as and when we are called upon to do so. The situation is under control in terms of aid and financial support, I am told, so far as those existing border areas in Rwanda are concerned where the major relief effort is presently concentrated. But everyone understands that a much larger relief operation needs to be mounted in the country itself and elsewhere as the situation further develops. We are standing ready to be helpful in that respect.

  I do not know whether the Prime Minister has had the opportunity to specifically raise this matter with President Clinton or anybody else during his present visit. I will seek information on that and advise Senator Harradine accordingly when the information comes to hand.