afrol News, 24 September - President Paul Kagame has reiterated Rwanda's commitment to complete withdrawal of all its troops from Congo Kinshasa (DRC). He said that Rwanda would fulfil all its obligations under the Pretoria Agreement signed on 30 July 2002. The reason for Rwanda's withdrawal was that it had been able to secure stability at home.
President Kagame said this when speaking to the French 'Jeune Afrique' magazine last weekend. "We were serious when we made this undertaking to withdraw our forces from the DRC," Mr Kagame said. "We have started withdrawing our troops and we intend to take this to its conclusion until the last Rwandan soldier has returned home. We will be doing this in the coming days, maybe a month. If it were logistically possible to withdraw all our troops in one day, we would have done so."
President Kagame said that he believed that the time had come for the Congolese peace process to move forward with fresh new momentum. "We think the time has come to take some kind of initiative to breathe into the process some life, to create a forward movement for peace in the Congo as well as the whole region," he said.
On reports of fighting and insecurity resulting from the withdrawal of Rwandan troops, Mr Kagame told the French journal that this had been anticipated, and he had advised the United Nations Security Council to be prepared to deal that situation.
- I warned the Security Council, he said. "I brought it to their attention. I thought that it would have been disingenuous of me to simply talk about our withdrawal from Congo without bringing to their attention the likely consequences of our withdrawal. The security situation might get worse with the likely vacuum that might develop once we have withdrawn entirely from Congo."
On the question of how many of the ex-FAR/Interahamwe troops - which were responsible of the 1994 Rwandan genocide - remain at large in Congo Kinshasa, the Rwandan President said, "their numbers are not the most important issue. The most important issues are, firstly, what they represent, they are forces that committed genocide and whether it is one person or one hundred, the important issue is what they represent. The second important issue is how they interact with other forces, countries or groups, in order to get the capacity to continue to cause problems for us. These are the key issues," Mr Kagame added.
Mr Kagame characterised the four-year presence of Rwandan troops in the DRC as a success in as far as the objective of establishing security for Rwanda was achieved. "We have managed to deal with the security problem. Here in Rwanda we have no insecurity at all. By containing them (ex-FAR and Interahamwe) in the DRC, we have partly resolved the problem. If we hadn't done that there would be trouble here. There is a big difference between the security situation here in 1997 and 1998 and what is happening today." He added that these efforts also helped bring about the Lusaka and Pretoria peace agreements.
The Rwandan President said that he had no regrets about his country's troops defending Rwanda by pursuing genocidal forces in Congo Kinshasa, where they operated under government protection. "We have been sincere, right from the beginning about what we have been doing for our country. We have always been very clear about the reasons for which we have been in the Congo, namely our security concerns that date back to the tragic events of 1994."
He further dismissed allegations of Rwanda exploiting Congo's minerals as "cynical and untrue." Rwandan and other foreign troops on Congolese soil (namely Uganda and Zimbabwe) have been accused by the international community of making big revenues from the vast natural resources in Congo Kinshasa.
The UN peacekeeping mission (MONUC) in Congo confirms that Rwandan troops are preparing to continue their withdrawal from the country. "So far, 1,380 soldiers have pulled out of Kindu/Kalima and have arrived in Kigali," MONUC representatives confirmed last week, and further withdrawal orders had been" sent to operational commanders on the ground."
Sources: Based on Rwandan
govt, UN and afrol archives