The U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo said that the recent buildup of troops by Rwanda along the borders of Rwanda, Burundi and Congo poses a threat to peace efforts in the area. Cathy Majtenyi reports from VOA's East African Bureau in Nairobi.
A spokeswoman for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo, Eliane Nabaa, said that she is unclear why the Rwandan government is massing its troops along the borders, when it is unlikely that Hutu rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo are planning a large-scale attack against Rwanda.
"When there were these claims that they were preparing a massive attack, in fact, the U.N. observers did not witness any real massive preparation for an attack," she said.
Ms. Nabaa said that the United Nations is in the midst of voluntarily repatriating the Hutu rebels back to Rwanda for disarmament and reintegration. She added that since the signing of a regional peace deal in 2002, the United Nations has repatriated 11,000 Rwandan rebels. She said that there are about 8,000 more Hutu rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The presence of Hutu rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo is a sensitive issue. After Rwanda's 1994 genocide, in which Hutu extremists killed up to 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus, Hutu militiamen and soldiers fled to neighboring Congo to hide. In the process, the rebels killed many Congolese troops and civilians.
While the U.N. peacekeeping mission said that it does not believe Hutu rebels are organizing massive strikes against Rwanda, Rwandan officials see it differently.
Rwandan army spokesman Colonel Patrick Karegeya said that Hutu rebels attacked places along the Congo and Burundian borders on April seventh, eighth and ninth. He added that in one battle, 16 rebels were killed and the rest fled back to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Colonel Karegeya estimates there are more than 15,000 Hutu rebels hiding out in Congo. He said that contrary to what the United Nations says, no Hutu rebels have been disarmed and repatriated back to Rwanda. Those who have returned, he said, have done so on their own.
He also denied allegations by the U.N. peacekeeping mission that Rwandan troops were spotted in Congo.
Colonel Karegeya added that Rwanda is willing to help the U.N. peacekeeping mission disarm the Hutu rebels. He said that the Rwandan army will continue to wait along the borders and fight back, in case they are attacked.