afrol News - New confusion over Rwandan withdrawal from Congo

Rwanda & Congo Kinshasa
New confusion over Rwandan withdrawal from Congo

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Rwandan diplomacy in winds of change 


afrol News, 5 February - Rwanda withdrew its troops from neighbouring Congo Kinshasa (DRC) in October last year, according to official announcements. There are however a growing number of informal reports about continued Rwandan presence in Eastern Congo, which i largely controlled by pro-Rwandan rebels.

The UN peacekeeping forces in Congo, MONUC, recently reported about "disturbing information about troop movements in the East and North-East" the country, something that also included reports about Rwandan troops. The MONUC team however had not observed Rwandan soldiers for themselves. 

Also late last year, the UN panel investigating illegal resource exploitation in the Congo sustained allegations on a continued presence, although in discretion, of Rwandan troops in Eastern Congo, reportedly involved in the exploitation of the valuable mineral coltan, marketed through Kigali. 

Now, as late last year, the information these UN documents are based on is originating from anonymous sources, not within the UN's paylists, and the Rwandan government categorically distances itself from the allegations.

The Foreign Ministry in Kigali has now loudly protested the new charges in a press release. "It should be remembered that we withdrew our troops from the DRC in October 2002, and this withdrawal was confirmed by MONUC itself in a press release," says Rwandan diplomat Valens Munyabagisha.

- The government of Rwanda expresses concern about MONUC's dissemination of non-verified, alarmist and tendentious information when they pretty well know that their primary duty, under the circumstances is to seek verification of the would-be 'disturbing information,' the government spokesman says, and further demands to be "provided with the source of the said information."

Most of Eastern Congo is controlled by Rwanda's ally, the RCD-Goma rebels. This rebel group however has seen serious threats to its position after the withdrawal of regular Rwandan troops from the area. Other rebel group that are supported by the Kinshasa government are conquering large land areas previously controlled by RCD-Goma and have made two attacks on RCD's headquarters in Bukavu. 

Although Rwanda claims to have fully withdrawn from the Congo - and so far there is no weighty evidence of the opposite - Kigali has vital interests in keeping Eastern Congo under the control of friendly troops. These interests are primarily security concerns - troops guilty of the 1994 Rwandan genocide are still armed by the Kinshasa government - but to a growing degree also business interests. There are therefore speculations that Rwandan soldiers could discretely be assisting its RCD allies, which are losing ground. 

Mr Munyabagisha however strongly denies all such speculations. The government of Rwanda "condemns all attempts to undermine the commitments of the parties involved in the peace process in the Congo, and reiterates its full willingness to keep on seeking peace in the sub region," he says. 

Peace is however far from being realised in Congo Kinshasa, although most foreign troops now have withdrawn from the country. The Kinshasa military government has achieved little trust and is reportedly equally involved in the country's illegal resource exploitation as the competing rebel troops. 

Also MONUC spokesman Hamadoun Tour is pessimistic on the recent developments in Congo Kinshasa, if troop movements should involve Rwandans or not. He warns of "imminent" attacks.

According to Mr Tour, the Rwandan army is reported to be active in the Ituri District of Orientale Province of North-Eastern Congo, while the Ugandan army has battalions supporting various Congolese rebel factions fighting in Ituri. MONUC further reported an alleged presence of uniformed Rwandan soldiers in the Kivu provinces in the east and Kinshasa government troops in areas supposedly under rebel control. All this marks breaches of the Pretoria peace accord.

Sources: Based on Rwandan govt, UN and afrol archives

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