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Rwanda Rejects Calls to Help Repatriate Hutu Rebels

Rwanda is flatly rejecting calls by an international conflict resolution group to provide benefits to returning Hutu rebels who fled into the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo after the 1994 massacre of ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The group has urged Rwanda to bring the fighters back home with generous resettlement packages.

The Rwandan government says members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, the FDLR, rebel group will have to integrate themselves back into Rwandan society as many others have done, and should not expect special treatment or concessions from the government.

"And why would they come back conditionally when other[s] came without any preconditions at all, they were all received very well home, they have been resettled, and they are doing extremely well where they are," said Rwanda's Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of the Interior, Joseph Mutaboba. "So I do not see why this particular group should come with specific, even requirements or conditions."

The Rwandan Hutu rebel group has been causing havoc in the Great Lakes region and is the major factor for tense relations between the Democratic Republic of Congo and neighboring Rwanda. The rebels have been accused of playing a prominent role in Rwanda's 1994 genocide in which Hutu extremists killed an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

Eight to 12,000 fighters, some who fled to Congo after participating in the genocide, are still hiding there. Late in March, the group said it would disarm voluntarily and return peacefully to Rwanda.

The International Crisis Group, in a new report, urged the Rwandan government to discuss, with the rebels ways to facilitate their return.

Senior analyst for the International Crisis Group, Jim Terrie, told VOA: "So once they have gone through the process of return, of vetting, etc. which is going to need to occur, we would hope that the Rwandan government would firstly be reasonably magnanimous in terms of the potential for these people to be integrated into the military where a lot of them want to go, and others in terms of a generous resettlement package, because I think the magnitude of the problem is such that needs more than just the standard offer which seems to be the case at the moment."

The International Crisis Group is a Brussels-based independent international organization whose main goal is to prevent and resolve deadly conflict.

The Democratic Republic of Congo, says the ICG and others, including the United Nations and the African Union, should also take measures to get the rebel group to return to Rwanda.

The International Crisis Group's Mr. Terrie says the return of the rebels to Rwanda is in the best interests of the country and the region itself, so measures to get them to return are important.

The Rwandan government has complained that rebel fighters had crossed into Rwanda several times from Congo within the last year, attacking villages along the border.

Rwanda had sent troops across the border twice within the past decade to hunt down the Hutu rebels, raising protests from Congo.