Clinton flies to Rwanda to meet genocide survivors
March 25, 1998
The Clintons depart Entebbe airport for a visit to Rwanda
Web posted at: 5:35 a.m. EST (1035 GMT)
KAMPALA, Uganda (CNN) - President Clinton took a brief intermission from a two-day stop in Uganda to fly to Kigali, Rwanda, and meet with survivors of the 1994 Rwandan bloodletting in which extremist Hutus used machetes, knives and picks to kill 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
The hours-long visit was restricted to Kigali airport out of security fears raised by the continued instability in the East African nation. Hutu rebels have stepped up their campaign against Rwanda's mainly Tutsi army since December.
Rwanda has said it is fully equipped to deal with security during Clinton's visit.
Clinton planned to meet survivors of the slaughter at the airport and announce a U.S. contribution of $2 million for a genocide survivor fund, to help those who escaped death and are still trying to rebuild their lives.
He was also expected to lend U.S. support to a number of other initiatives aimed at preventing such genocides in future and bringing to trial those involved in the mass killings.
Clinton will also meet Rwandan President Pasteur Bizimungu, but the White House made clear he would not be stopping at a hastily constructed memorial to Rwandan genocide victims.
"My understanding is he will not go to that site," White House spokesman Mike McCurry said on Tuesday night.
Rwandan officials have said a refusal to visit the monument would be considered a snub. And Rwandans have said that if Clinton were truly interested in paying homage to genocide victims, he would have visited the countryside where most of them died.
McCurry said Clinton would, however, present a plaque for placement at the memorial, a sculpture of ceramic and concrete that contains bones of victims and the killing tools of the assailants..
U.S. officials were loath to say exactly why Clinton would not go to the site but one official, speaking on condition of anonymity, cited security concerns.
It was Kigali airport where in April 1994 Rwandan President Juvenal Habyarimana was expected to land after returning from peace talks with Uganda-based Tutsi rebels. His plane was shot down minutes before landing and the genocide began within hours.
After leaving Rwanda, Clinton is returning to Entebbe Airport outside Kampala to attend the Entebbe Summit for Peace and Prosperity, a gathering of Central African leaders.
Reuters contributed to this report.