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Expulsion of Hutu Rebels Without Consultation Angers Rwanda - 2002-09-26


Rwanda is accusing its neighbor, the Democratic Republic of Congo, of violating a provision of the Pretoria peace accord signed in July to end their six-year-old conflict. The government in Kigali is angry over a decision to expel 25 Rwandan Hutu rebels, without consultation.

The Secretary-General of the Rwandan Foreign Ministry, Joseph Mutaboba, says his country strongly objects to the plan, mainly because Rwanda has no idea where the rebels will go once they leave the Democratic Republic of Congo. "Are they going to Rwanda, Lusaka, Arusha? Where are they going? We need to know. We need to be advised of their destination," he said.

Under the Pretoria accord, signed in July, Rwanda and Uganda agreed to withdraw their forces from Congo-Kinshasa, in return for a promise by the Kinshasa government to apprehend, disarm, and repatriate Hutu militiamen menacing their borders. The troop withdrawals began during the past week. Now Rwanda says, if Congo fails to abide by the accord, it may be forced to reconsider the troop withdrawal.

But the special United Nations representative in Kinshasa has welcomed the expulsion of the Hutu militiamen. U.N. representative Amos Namanga Ngongi told the French news agency the move is a positive decision and a step toward implementing the Pretoria accords.

The Hutu fighters who are to be expelled from Congo fled there after the 1994 genocide of Rwandan Tutsis. They are now members of the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda, known by its French acronym FDLR. On Tuesday, Congolese President Joseph Kabila announced that his government has banned the group and gave 25 of its members three days to leave the country.

The Congo announcement did not indicate where the men will go, nor whether they will be disarmed.

Mr. Mutaboba of the Rwandan foreign ministry says Democratic Republic of Congo must clarify the terms of the expulsion before the men are set free. "The Pretoria agreement makes clear that people should be disarmed, and they should be assembled at well-known points, where they can be picked up for repatriation. Giving them 72 hours does not address the agreement. In the context of the agreement that he signed, you don't expel [them] with their arms," he said.

The war in the Democratic Republic of Congo has involved numerous African countries. Rwanda and Uganda supported rebels opposed to the late Congolese leader, Laurent Kabila. Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia fought alongside Congolese government troops.

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