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Rwanda, Uganda, DRC Agree on Security Structure

The foreign ministers of Rwanda, Uganda, and Democratic Republic of Congo Tuesday agreed to set up a common structure that would address security concerns in the area.

The two-day meeting that ended in the Rwandan capital of Kigali Tuesday solidifies an earlier protocol the three countries signed in the United States in September.

Rwandan foreign minister Charles Murigande told VOA, Tuesday's agreement establishes a regional security mechanism in which the three countries will together tackle problems that may lead to instability.

Mr. Murigande explains the new structure.

"We'll have a council of ministers which will bring ministers of foreign affairs and ministers of defense and any other minister who has a role in the peace and security," he said. "Under that council of ministers we shall establish sub-commissions in security and defense issues and a sub-commission on diplomatic matters."

The three countries have had volatile relationships for at least a decade. After Rwanda's 1994 genocide in which Hutu extremists killed up to 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus, Hutu militiamen and soldiers fled to neighboring DRC to hide.

Rwanda had sent its troops into DRC twice - in 1996 and 1998 - to hunt down Hutu extremists involved in the genocide. Rwanda has accused DRC of supporting the Hutu rebels, which DRC has denied.

The two appeared to be coming to blows over the issue earlier this year, when a build-up of Rwandan troops along the borders of DRC and Burundi caused alarm and fears for regional security. Rwanda and DRC accused each other and rebels of planning attacks.

Meanwhile, Uganda and Rwanda had sent troops into eastern DRC to support certain rebel groups waging war between 1998 and 2003, arguing that the conflict there threatened the security of Uganda and Rwanda. The two have also accused each other of backing opposition groups in their countries.

Mr. Murigande was optimistic that the new structure will resolve the problem of rebel groups and who supports them.

"We are going to join our efforts and I believe if the three government[s] were to join their military, political, diplomatic resources, I don't think there is any rebel movement that can survive our working together," he said.

Mr. Murigande said that, in his words, "the region does not lack good agreements, but the will to implement them." He said the officials attending this week's meeting have the will and are committed to implementing peace.