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UN Puzzled by Rwanda Threat to Invade Congo


A U.N. spokesman says he is shocked that Rwanda is threatening to attack Rwandan rebel bases in the Democratic Republic of Congo one week after a summit in which regional leaders agreed to work together for peace.

The spokesman for the U.N. Special Representative for the Great Lakes Region, George Ola Davies, told VOA he is mystified why Rwanda would threaten to send its troops into neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo when the ink is barely dry on a regional agreement to increase peace, security, and prosperity in the area.

One week ago, Rwandan President Paul Kagame and 10 other 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.

This week, President Kagame and other Rwandan officials said they would be prepared to go into DRC to flush out Hutu extremists who fled there after participating in the 1994 genocide in which up to 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.

Mr. Ola Davies, whose office organized the first-ever summit, says the Rwandan government gave no indication at the summit that it planned to go into DRC.

"Hence, it is a bit shocking, it is a bit surprising that it is happening now," said Mr. Ola Davies. "Let us just hope that they do not go in."

All throughout this year, Rwandan authorities have been accusing Hutu rebels in DRC of using their bases to attack Rwanda in what the authorities say is a continuation of the genocide.

In April, Rwandan army spokesman Colonel Patrick Karegeya told VOA rebels attacked places along the DRC and Burundian borders three times. During last week's summit, rockets were fired into Rwanda from DRC in what is believed to be a rebel attack.

VOA was unable to reach a Kagame advisor for comment on why the Rwandan government is threatening to go into DRC so soon after the summit.

Media reports quote President Kagame as saying that his country is tired of waiting for the United Nations and the international community to disband the rebels. Rwandan officials say the Hutus are making their way towards the Rwandan border with the intention of carrying out another attack.

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

Rwanda invaded DRC in 1996 and 1998 to hunt down the rebels.

A U.N. spokeswoman based in Kinshasa, Patricia Tome, told VOA there are many structures and processes in place to disband the rebel groups and to improve relations between the two countries.

She said in addition to last week's summit, officials from the U.N. Security Council toured the region, 5,000 additional U.N. peacekeepers are being sent to DRC, a joint DRC-Rwanda verification mechanism is monitoring rebel movements in DRC, and the U.N. and Congolese army are disarming and demobilizing Hutu rebels.

"So all these elements together, you know, it is a little bit odd to see the Rwandan[s] reactivating these kind[s] of very proactive to say the least attitudes when the issue is addressed," she said.

Ms. Tome said she suspects the Rwandan government wants to put pressure on the DRC government and the international community to speed up the rebels' disarmament.