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The Africa Quandary

SHE was in Liberia at the time, but Madeleine Albright, US ambassador to the UN, directed her message to the governments and rebel leaders of Angola, Burundi, and Rwanda as well. The purpose of her recent tour was not only to pledge support for these countries, but also to issue a warning: ''We have no intention of our logistical support being squandered by anyone's failure of political will.''

Decisive words, but also a quandary. Should UN peacekeepers stay in Angola if rebel leader Jonas Savimbi breaks a pledge to demobilize troops? Should an international military force intervene in Burundi, knowing the government and military leaders have rejected foreign troops and guards? How far should the UN go in carrying out a disarmament program in Liberia now that a cease-fire is unraveling?

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The crises in Burundi, Rwanda, Liberia, and Angola differ in important ways, and one cookie-cutter UN resolution won't work for all of them. But Ms. Albright's simple, stern message does apply to each country: We will help you, but only if you help yourselves. The international community must make good on its promises of support, but its peacekeeping missions and humanitarian aid should be contingent on all sides in each conflict making significant progress toward peace. That's been more evident in some cases than in others.

Angola. Rebel leader Savimbi promised Albright he would send 16,500 soldiers to UN-monitored demobilization camps by Feb. 8. That's when the Security Council is to decide whether to prolong the UN peacekeeping mission there. So far, only about 1,500 rebel soldiers have arrived at the camps, and at least 200 had no weapons to turn in. Since November 1994, when the rebels and government reached a peace accord, Savimbi has broken four pledges to demobilize troops. President Jose Eduardo dos Santos has been doing his part by freeing hundreds of political prisoners; Savimbi now must do his. The UN plays a crucial role in helping to sustain the fragile peace in Angola, but it can't remain indefinitely if one side isn't serious about ending the civil war.

Burundi. Although Hutus and Tutsis had worked to negotiate a stable power-sharing agreement, the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda prompted extremist factions in Burundi to seize power by force. Now the country stands on the brink of civil war. UN Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali proposed that security guards and a peacekeeping force be deployed to protect aid workers and prevent further warfare between the Hutus and Tutsis, but the Burundi military and president rejected such plans. Albright has warned the army against overthrowing the government, saying it would lead to international isolation. That warning alone probably isn't enough to compel the two sides to sign a new power-sharing agreement, but neither should it be taken as an empty threat. Burundi can still step back from Rwanda-style genocide, but it will require persistent high-level diplomacy from the West.

Rwanda. The Tutsi-led government must show it's still pursuing a policy of reconciliation by putting a stop to arbitrary arrests of Hutus. About 60,000 Hutus are in detention in Rwanda on suspicion that they took part in the '94 massacres. As Albright reiterated during her visit, the overcrowding in prisons has to end, and Rwanda must now focus on improving its judicial system. The US has taken the right step by offering to send two legal experts to help with the process. Government leaders, meanwhile, have appealed to aid agencies to assist with thousands of Rwandan refugees fleeing the fighting in Burundi. Those leaders should demonstrate first that Rwandan hard-liners - who recently expelled 40 Western aid agencies - don't have the upper hand. That includes boosting security for aid workers and UN staff, particularly urgent in light of the beating by government soldiers from three Western investigators of the UN genocide tribunal

Liberia. New fighting in Liberia, which is hindering efforts to end the six-year war, is abetted by a poorly equipped peacekeeping force. Nigeria has led the effort to end the war, but can't do it alone. One positive sign: The Security Council recently voted to extend its 82-member observer mission, which oversees implementation of the 1995 peace accord, through May 31. But in Liberia, as in all the war-torn countries of Africa, there is scant reason for an international peace mission if rebels refuse to lay down their arms.

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