Accessibility links

Rwanda Vows to Defend Itself Against Hutu Attackers - 2004-08-17

Following the recent massacre at a refugee camp in Burundi in which more than 150 Tutsi refugees were killed, Rwanda's foreign minister says that if Hutu armed extremists based in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo cross the border into Rwanda to carry out similar attacks, Rwanda will follow them back into DRC.

Rwandan Foreign Minister Charles Murigande says the Congo-Kinshasa government has failed to disarm and demobilize about 15,000 Hutu extremists, called Interahamwe, who were responsible for planning and carrying out the Rwandan genocide a decade ago.

The Interahamwe, along with Congolese militias and a Hutu rebel group based in Burundi, are believed to have been involved in last Friday's attack against a Tutsi refugee camp in Burundi, where at least 150 Tutsi refugees were killed.

Mr. Murigande says Rwanda's patience is running out and vows to chase the extremists back to their bases in Congo-Kinshasa if they cross the border into Rwanda.

"Definitely the border would not be the shield behind which they could hide or find safety," he said.

Hutu extremists were responsible for killing some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus during the 1994 genocide. Many of them had fled into neighboring DRC and have set up bases there.

Rwanda invaded Congo-Kinshasa in 1996 and 1998 in an effort to wipe out the Hutu extremists. Rwanda says the extremists still pose a real threat to the country. Mr. Murigande says they have crossed over into Rwanda several times during the past few months and have attacked villages.

"The best way of committing genocide effectively is to be in power, so they see the capturing of power as a mean[s] to continue and complete their genocidal agenda," he said.

The Congo-Kinshasa government, along with the U.N. mission based there, say they have already disarmed and demobilized the Hutu extremists.

Meanwhile, the head of the Tutsi-dominated Burundian army told reporters that he is considering sending troops into Congo-Kinshasa to catch those responsible for last week's attack on the refugee camp if Congo-Kinshasa fails to disarm Hutu fighters and allied militias.