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Rwanda Says No Troops in Eastern DRC


Rwanda’s presidential envoy to the Great Lakes region, Richard Sezibera, says his country does not have any troops – including special forces – in eastern Congo. The United Nations mission in Congo says aerial photographs suggest Rwandan troops have crossed into eastern Congo . It also says its observers have spotted 100 fighters believed to be from Rwanda.

News reports say Rwandan President Paul Kagame sent a letter in late November to the African Union saying that a unilateral operation by Rwandan troops in eastern Congo would not last longer than two weeks and would only target the rebels. But Dr. Sezibera says this letter is being misinterpreted; he says President Kagame means that Rwanda would only enter the DRC as a last resort, if the international community failed to help rid the region of Hutu interahamwe guerrillas involved in Rwanda’s genocide 10 years ago.

Dr. Sezibera told VOA’s William Eagle that Rwanda has shared intelligence with the DRC government and the international community regarding the location of the rebels, but he says nothing has been done to demobilize them. The US government has called for the tensions to be settled diplomatically, and for there to be high level talks between Rwanda, the DRC and Uganda to ease tensions in the region.

But Richard Sezibera says the international community and the DRC have rejected its idea for demobilizing the Hutu rebels said by Rwanda to be threatening its borders. Among those solutions, he said, was an offer for the international community to allow its troops in Congo to disarm the Hutu forces; and for the DRC government to mobilize, what he calls, “friends” in the region to demobilize the groups, or for the armed forces of Rwanda and the DRC to apprehend them.

Congolese observers have asked why Rwanda thinks the rebels could be controlled within weeks by troops sent by Kigali when a five-year Rwanda military presence in eastern Congo failed to eliminate the rebels. Dr. Sezibera responds that it’s because in the past, neighboring governments, including Uganda, were arming and training the rebels forces. He says he believes a joint effort to defeat them would be the most effective way to resolve tensions in the region. He also denied that Rwanda was using the threat of an incursion to seize the area’s cobalt, copper or diamond mines.