News / Africa

DRC Says Rwanda Withdraws Troops Helping Rebels

M23 rebel fighters in Karambi, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) July 12, 2012. M23 rebel fighters in Karambi, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) July 12, 2012.
M23 rebel fighters in Karambi, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) July 12, 2012.
M23 rebel fighters in Karambi, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) July 12, 2012.
Nick Long
The Democratic Republic of Congo’s government says Rwanda has been smuggling troops out of the eastern DRC.  The DRC accuses Rwanda of assisting rebels in the region, an accusation that Rwanda repeatedly has denied.

The Democratic Republic of Congo’s communications minister Lambert Mende has questioned Rwanda’s announcement that last Friday it withdrew a contingent of soldiers who were working with the Congolese army.

Mende does not deny that some units of the Rwandan army, said by local sources to number more than 200, were withdrawn from the territory of Rutshuru last week, but he says they were not part of a joint operation with the Congolese army.

He says the announcement was to disguise a withdrawal of troops that should not have been in the Congo, and were probably helping the rebel group M23.

"We think that it is a trick, because we received here less than 100 intelligence officers.  It’s what we agreed with our neighbours - to set up a team of 100 from Congo and 100 from Rwanda to set up a mechanism to monitor the border," Mende said.

Mende says Congo recently decided to dismantle this team, because of worsening relations with Rwanda, and he suggests Kigali has seized this opportunity to smuggle out other soldiers.

"How comes it that now that we have asked for this mechanism to be withdrawn, they are withdrawing 300 soldiers - not officers but soldiers?  That means they are exfiltrating soldiers they have infiltrated, and they want them back to Rwanda because there is a lot of pressure from the international community," Mende said.

The conflict between Congo's army and M23 began in April.  M23 has since defeated the army in battles in North Kivu province and seized control of several areas including Rutshuru, although they later pulled out of the eastern city.

The rebel group consists of of former Congolese army soldiers loyal to warlord Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court.

Speaking to the media Monday, Mende reiterated his government’s request to the U.N. Security Council for sanctions to be imposed on senior Rwandan officials and officers cited in a U.N. group of experts' report as helping the M23 rebels.
Those cited include Rwandan Defense Minister James Kabarebe, who was once chief of staff of the Congolese army.  Kabarebe has aroused strong feelings in Kinshasa with his derogatory comments about the DRC, which he said in a recent interview had neither a government nor an army.

In place of a joint Congolese-Rwandan border force, the DRC has appealed for an international force to be stationed along the border, with a mandate to eradicate the M23 and the Rwandan FDLR rebels.  

Mende says progress has been made this plan, and the next stage will be a foreign ministers’ meeting to prepare for another heads of state meeting in Kampala, to take the decisions so that the force can be set up.

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Comment Sorting
by: P. Laurent from: kigali
September 05, 2012 2:26 PM
Minister Mende your very busy spreading your deceitfulness to the world. Rwandan special forces crossed the border while the international media witnesses. A Congolese delegation led by the 8th region of the FARDC, Brig Gen Lucien Bauma Ambamba, in a sign of good cooperation between FARDC and RDF delivered a message of appreciation for the support given by Rwanda Defence Forces to FARDC. What are the basis of your arguments?. We are wise and in apposition to analyze what you are saying. I think the Brig Gen was there on behalf of the your government.

by: Bernard URAYENEZA from: Kigali, Rwanda
September 05, 2012 11:48 AM
Anyone with an average intellect will see that what is being said by the not so Honourable minister is mere obfuscation. There is a deliberate policy by some in the congolese government to use lies and half truths in the media to blow wind into the firestorm began by Hege's and the 'GoE's ' biased report.

From the time the Congo began it's interference in Rwanda's affairs in 1990 by sending thousands of indisciplined special forces to fight on the side of the genocidal regime of the day to date, they've been on the losing side. I don't think this kind of behaviour will win them anything in the long run.

by: H. Gbahn from: Liberia
September 05, 2012 10:27 AM
Don't forget to know that the DRC Army assigned at North Kivu were overrun few months ago by M23 rebels, it is likely that the soldiers left their uniforms down in the process. Let us, Africans forget about this constant bloodshed and learn to live at peace.

by: Charles Murigande from: Tokyo
September 05, 2012 5:15 AM
What Minister Lambert Mende is saying is just laughable. All the 357 Rwandan Special Troops that were withdrawn from DRC were wearing DR Congolese Army Uniforms given by the DRC Army (FARDC). If the agreement said that RwandanSpecial troops should not be more than 100 as Min. Mende falsely claims, why did FARDC give them 357 uniforms?

The Military Leadership of the 8th FARDC Military Region was at the Rwanda-DRC border to bid farewell to the departing Rwandan Special Forces and the Commander of the 8th FARDC Military Region promised to send for the collection of their Military Uniforms in Gisenyi. They never complained about the number of withdrawn Rwandan soldiers being higher than agreed!

by: Michael from: Kigali
September 05, 2012 4:42 AM
I think this tough talking by DRC governmanet officials is not good for the ongoing efforts to bring peace to the region. Rwanda should be seen as a partner and not a foe to peace in DRC. The last three years have shown that when the two countries work together they can achieve peace. Its thus not good for Minister Mende to keep on bashing Rwanda. Its not good for Rwanda; its not good for DRC and its not good for peace.

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