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Rwanda, DR Congo See Improvement in Relations


Relations between the central African nations of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo are improving after successful collaboration against a common foe in Congolese territory.

The Congolese and Rwandan governments are taking steps to re-establish official diplomatic ties, after more than a decade of icy relations.

Congo approved a diplomatic envoy to Kigali earlier this week. Rwanda named an envoy to Kinshasa two months ago.

The two nations have been on rocky terms since a 1998 Rwandan excursion into eastern Congo to attack Hutu rebels, most of which had fled to eastern Congo following the 1994 genocide that killed hundreds of thousands of Rwandan Tutsi.

But the two countries' successful joint military operation against the Hutu rebel forces earlier this year has helped thaw the strained relationship.

Rwanda Minister of Information Louise Mushikiwabo says the shared threat of the rebel group, which once had driven the two countries apart, has helped to finally bring the two countries closer together.

"What is clear is that the government or Rwanda and the government of the DRC have agreed to work together in uprooting some of these destabilizing groups in eastern DRC," he said.

After renewed fighting broke out in January between Congolese forces and the rebel Hutu Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, the Rwandan military collaborated with the Congolese army to attack the rebel group.

The Rwandan forces have since pulled out, but the two nations are using the successful military cooperation as a base to begin re-patching their eroded relations.

Minister Mushikiwabo sees the new diplomatic appointments as a sign the two countries are ready to begin talking on a wide range of issues that extend past joint military concerns.

"Whether we have a military issue to resolve, whether we have a diplomatic issue to resolve, or whether we want to work together on some development issues, this is definitely an added advantage to have both ambassadors now in both countries nominated and approved," he said.

The Rwandan and Congolese government have recently agreed to work together on a joint energy project to utilize natural gas reserves in the Lake Kivu area, on the border between the two countries.

The re-ignition of fighting against the Rwandan Hutu rebels in eastern Congo followed increased fighting between Congolese forces and the Ugandan rebel Lord's Resistance Army in northeastern Congo. Both Rwanda and Uganda sent forces across the border to help the Congolese against the nations' respective rebel forces.

A recent report from Human Rights Watch claims civilians in the conflict-plagued eastern Congo are suffering severe human rights abuses from Congolese and rebel forces.

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