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Kinshasa Signals Stronger Relations with Rwanda 


The Democratic Republic of Congo government has vowed to strengthen ties with neighboring Rwanda. This comes after President Joseph Kabila named an ambassador to Kigali after years of strained diplomatic relations.

Kinshasa said the recent joint military operation between the two countries aimed at weeding out insurgents in restive North Kivu province was the first step toward building strong relations with its neighbor.

Political analysts have often blamed suspicion as the major cause of the tepid relations between Kinshasa and Kigali.

"As you will recall, early into this year President Kabila took an initiative. He invited Rwandan armed forces to join with us in order to dismantle one of the armed groups working in the North and South Kivu areas," said Raymond Tshibanda, Congolese minister of international and regional cooperation.

He said President Kabila's newly named ambassador, Norbert Nkulu Kilombo, signals a seriousness toward building ties with Kigali.

"The DRC government has recently advised the government of Rwanda that it plans to appoint Mr. Norbert Nkulu Kilombo as the new DRC ambassador to Rwanda. The appointment of an ambassador is usually an indication of the quality of the relations a country seeks to establish with another country," he said.

Tshibanda said Kinshasa aims to build a stronger bond with its neighbor.

"We have to go beyond diplomatic relations. We have also to work on improving our economic relations. This is another line of action we are working on in order to strengthen the relations between our two countries," Tshibanda said.

He described as opening old wounds when questioned about the genesis of the strained relations between the two countries.

"I don't think that at this stage it will be helpful to go back over the recent history of the relations between our two countries because it would be, I would say, opening old wounds when we should be trying to mend these wounds," he said.

Tshibanda said that top level discussions between the neighboring countries serve as confidence building measures and are an encouraging sign.

"We need to rebuild trust between the two governments. Because we discovered that working together, our positions are closer to one another than we thought. And we intend to work together until we have solved once and for all this problem" Tshibanda said.

He said Presidents Joseph Kabila and Paul Kagame will soon meet as a demonstration of trust between the two countries.

"Hopefully, sooner than you think. Maybe within the next few weeks. We are working on the idea. We are in constant consultation with Kigali, trying to manage the work schedule of the two heads of state. But we have already agreed in principle that they are going to be meeting soon," he said.

The newly appointed Congolese ambassador, Norbert Nkulu Kilombo, is scheduled to arrive in Rwanda soon.

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