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Letter to Congressional Leaders on Rwanda and Zaire

December 02, 1996

Dear Mr. Speaker: (Dear Mr. President:)

The humanitarian situation in Rwanda and the Great Lakes region of eastern Zaire has been a continuing source of international concern. Although approximately 600,000 refugees have recently returned to Rwanda from Zaire, the situation remains uncertain. An estimated 200,000 or more refugees and displaced persons remain scattered in eastern Zaire likely without adequate food, water, shelter, or medical care. Repatriation is expected to continue in the foreseeable future. Urgent action may still be required, however, to supply essential relief to refugees and displaced persons still located in eastern Zaire and to assist those refugees that have returned to Rwanda.

In response to United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1080 (1996), the United States plans to participate in a multinational effort, led by Canada, to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance and to facilitate the voluntary, orderly repatriation of refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian aid organizations as well as the voluntary return of displaced persons. Pending final consultation with our allies, I expect the United States to contribute personnel and equipment to the headquarters, civilmilitary affairs and psychological operations units, and other support elements as required.

In furtherance of UNSCR 1080 and the aim of the multinational effort, the United States has already positioned personnel and equipment in furtherance of "Operation Guardian Assistance" (approximately 400 personnel are currently in the region) to conduct non-combat missions, including airlift, air control, and related services in support of ongoing humanitarian efforts by Rwanda and private relief organizations.

Part of the U.S. assistance to the region has been helping locate groups of refugees and displaced persons to ascertain their movement and condition. The United States has used aircraft and other means in an effort to gain accurate and complete information. Although there has been sporadic fire from unknown sources at aircraft over-flying the Great Lakes region, including U.S. Navy aircraft, it is not clear that this fire was intentionally directed at U.S. personnel. This past weekend the United States also deployed an AC-130U aircraft to the area to facilitate this effort through the use of aerial surveys. Although its primary mission is aerial surveys, the aircraft is fully mission-capable and will be available for search and rescue or other forceprotection missions, if required. The aircraft will be based in Entebbe Airfield, Uganda, and will conduct aerial surveys throughout the Great Lakes region. The aircraft will remain in the area as long as aerial survey efforts are required by relief efforts.

The United States recognizes that the return of peace and security to the region will ultimately rest on the resolution of long-standing political and social differences and an end to the fighting. The United States is actively supporting the United Nations and the international community to achieve those ends. Humanitarian concerns, however, require that the United States take immediate action to relieve the suffering of innocent victims of the regional instability until those long-term political and social differences can be resolved.

I have taken this action pursuant to my constitutional authority to conduct the foreign relations of the United States and as Commander in Chief and Chief Executive. I am providing this report in accordance with my desire that the Congress be fully informed, consistent with the War Powers Resolution. I appreciate the support of the Congress in this action to assist the international community in its humanitarian relief efforts in Central Africa.



NOTE: Identical letters were sent to Newt Gingrich, Speaker of the House of Representatives, and Strom Thurmond, President pro tempore of the Senate. This letter was released by the Office of the Press Secretary on December 3.

William J. Clinton, Letter to Congressional Leaders on Rwanda and Zaire Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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