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US Confident Congo and Rwanda Improving Relations


A senior U.S. diplomat said Friday he is confident that Rwanda and Congo are committed to resolving their differences peacefully, despite two weeks of escalating tensions between the two neighbors. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Donald Yamamoto, who has just visited the two countries, said both are committed to peace in the region and are heading in the right direction.

Winding up a visit to Africa's turbulent Great Lakes region amid repeated threats by Rwanda to send soldiers into Congo to hunt down rebels, Donald Yamamoto said he is confident that all sides are committed to peace and progress.

After visiting both capitals and holding talks with both countries' presidents, Mr. Yamamoto, the U.S. deputy assistant secretary for African Affairs, said Friday that Rwanda and Congo have shown commitments, and he was hopeful that progress could be made.

Mr. Yamamoto did not elaborate on the commitments, or disclose details of the meetings, but said, each time the parties meet, there is a new breakthrough, and new bonds are developed between all sides.

However, the American diplomat conceded that it will take a lot of time, political will and work from all sides to heal deep wounds between the countries.

During the past two weeks, Rwanda has threatened to send its soldiers into Congo to hunt down Hutu rebels, many of whom took part in the 1994 genocide that claimed the lives of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus before fleeing into eastern Congo.

Rwanda says that neither the Congolese government nor the U.N. mission in Congo has disarmed the rebels, so it has the right to do so.

Congo, in turn, has accused Rwanda of having already sent soldiers across the border, and said it would deploy 10,000 troops to the east. That is fueling fears the region could once again slip into war.

Rwanda invaded Congo twice during the last decade, ostensibly to hunt down the Hutu rebels. The second intervention in 1998 helped trigger Congo's five year war and a humanitarian crisis that has killed nearly four-million people, mostly from hunger and disease.

The United States is spearheading attempts to cement diplomatic solutions for disputes between Rwanda, Congo and Uganda, which was also involved in Congo's war. Various border verification mechanisms have been set up to arbitrate disputes that take place on or near the borders the three countries share in the region.

But critics say the failure to implement these agreements on the ground highlights lack of real commitment on all sides to resolve problems in the resource-rich, but lawless eastern Congo.

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