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Rwanda Says it Does Not Want War with Congo

A top aide to Rwanda's President Paul Kagame says his country has not intention of sparking another war with Congo, which has accused Rwandan forces of invading eastern Congo.

Continued fighting in Congo's North Kivu province threatens to unravel the fragile peace process that put an end to Congo's deadly five-year war. Congolese President Joseph Kabila insists Rwandan forces have invaded eastern Congo and has vowed to drive them back into Rwanda.

Rwanda denies the presence of its forces in Congo, but recently threatened to launch a limited incursion into Congo's eastern region to track down and disarm the more than 10,000 Hutu militiamen who still roam the countryside there, 10 years after carrying out genocide against Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda.

Rwandan officials say the Hutu fighters have launched 11 rocket attacks across the border as part of a wider campaign of violence against ethnic Tutsis in the region. One of them, Kigali says, included the massacre in August of Congolese Tutsis, known as Banyamelenge, who had taken refuge in Burundi.

The president's aide Richard Sezibera, in an interview with VOA from the presidential compound in Kigali, says the international community should help in dealing with the rebel threat.

"We have raised this issue with the [UN] Security Council when they visited Rwanda last month" he said. "We have raised this issue with the African Union. And we don't understand why the world is not taking this seriously. That is the major issue. We still hope that someone can address this issue and end this threat. You can imagine if this was Nazi Germany operating on the borders of France or Belgium ten years after the holocaust. I think the world would have been mobilized to deal with this threat."

Mr. Sezibera was careful to say that Rwanda is an ally of the Congolese government, and he dismissed claims that Rwanda was more interested in protecting alleged financial interests in Congo's mineral-rich eastern provinces than it was shielding Rwandans from Hutu militia attacks.

Rwanda has invaded Congo twice before, in 1996 and in 1998. In both cases, it said its mission was to track down and disarm Hutu fighters responsible for the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

The last Rwandan invasion sparked a five-year war that drew in at least six African countries and led to the deaths of nearly four million Congolese, mainly civilians, according to UN estimates.

The U.N. mission in Congo, called MONUC, sent about 16,000 peacekeepers to Congo and tried to disarm Hutu fighters and other militia groups. Mr. Sezibera says that is not working.

"I think if this problem is not addressed, Rwandan troops and Rwandese [being] attacked, Rwandan troops will end up going back to Congo," he said. "We have made the intention clear, so that is not a secret. For now, there are no Rwandan troops in the DRC because we haven't judged the timing right to do it."

For now, the Congolese army and the MONUC are embarking on a campaign to forcibly disarm Rwandan Hutus operating in Congo, and return them to Rwanda voluntarily.