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African Union Meets to Discuss Rwanda-Congo Tensions

Foreign ministers gathered for the African Union's Peace and Security Council meeting in Addis Ababa are examining the deteriorating relations between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The chairman of the AU Peace and Security Council, Geoffrey Mugumya, told VOA the foreign ministers are urging Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo not to make any rash moves as the tension heightens between the two countries.

"We shall appeal for calm to ensure that whenever there is a conflict they should resolve it amicably, really as we have been doing in other parts of Africa," he said. "We are going to appeal to both sides to exercise restraint and to pursue a peaceful resolution."

In recent weeks, Rwanda had threatened to send its troops into Congo to hunt down members of the extremist Hutu rebel group responsible for the 1994 genocide in which up to 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed. Media reports indicate Rwandan soldiers have been spotted in Congo.

Rwanda accuses the DRC government of supporting the rebels, while Kinshasa says Rwanda is using the rebels as an excuse to invade its territory.

Last month, Rwanda and Congo attended the first Great Lakes Regional Summit, organized by the United Nations. Almost a dozen leaders signed a declaration that would, among other things, increase cooperation to disband rebel movements and ensure that countries in the region work together on defense issues.

One week later, Rwandan President Paul Kagame and other Rwandan officials said they would be prepared to go into Congo to flush out the Hutu extremists.

The spokesman for the U.N. Special Representative for the Great Lakes Region, George Ola-Davies, praised the African Union for getting involved in the issue and said its work would boost efforts being made by the United Nations to improve relations between the two countries and bring about regional stability.

Mr. Ola-Davies describes what needs to occur for the situation to de-escalate.

"In one breath, mutual trust and understanding: that is what needs to be in place for them to progress," he said. "But the African Union is handling it, and I am sure they will come out with something that will be acceptable to both parties."

Rwandan authorities have been accusing Hutu rebels in Congo of continuing the genocide by using their bases to attack Rwanda.

While last month's summit was taking place, rockets were fired into Rwanda in what is believed to have been a rebel attack.

Media reports quoted President Kagame as saying that his country is tired of waiting for the United Nations and the international community to disband the rebels.

Rwanda invaded the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1996 and 1998 to hunt down the rebels.