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UN Peacekeepers Predict Instability if Rwanda Sends Troops Into DRC - 2004-05-03

The U.N. peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo predicts much instability in the area if Rwandan troops are sent into DRC to flush out Hutu rebels.

A spokeswoman for the U.N. peacekeeping mission, Eliane Nabaa, criticizes the threat by Rwandan President Paul Kagame to send troops into the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo to capture Hutu rebels if the rebels continue attacking Rwanda.

Ms. Nabaa urges the Rwandan and DRC governments to talk face-to-face about how to capture and return Hutu militiamen and soldiers who fled Rwanda's 1994 genocide in which Hutu extremists killed up to 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. "So it is better to cooperate and to dialogue and to avoid, for instance, new clashes or new war that, only once again, the civilian population will pay for," she says.

The peacekeeping mission and the Rwandan government disagree on several key issues.

Ms. Nabaa says the United Nations has not witnessed any preparations for, or received any reports of, Hutu rebels attacking Rwanda from DRC Borders or Burundi, contrary to what President Kagame said on state radio during the weekend.

But Rwandan army spokesman Colonel Patrick Karegeya says Hutu rebels attacked places along the DRC and Burundian borders on April 7, 8 and 9. He says that in one battle, 16 rebels were killed, and the rest ran back to DRC.

Colonel Karegeya estimates there are more than 15,000 Hutu rebels still hiding out in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He says that contrary to what the United Nations says, no Hutu rebels have been disarmed and repatriated back to Rwanda. The ones who have returned, he says, have come on their own.

Ms. Nabaa maintains that, since the signing of a regional peace deal in 2002, the United Nations has disarmed and repatriated about 11,000 rebels back to Rwanda, with eight-thousand more rebels still hiding out in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Colonel Karegeya says the Rwandan foreign minister and other officials went to the Democratic Republic of Congo several times to talk to that government about cooperating in capturing and returning the rebels, but that they do not respond. He also says that despite a meeting in South Africa late last year in which the presidents of both countries agreed to work together on the issue, nothing has happened.

Colonel Karegeya would not say exactly when or under what circumstances Rwanda would send troops into, only that the troops would go in if the rebels continued with their attacks.