1 December 2004

Congo-Kinshasa: DRC-Rwanda: Monuc Arrests Suspected Rwandan Soldiers in Eastern Congo

Kinshasa — The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), known as MONUC, announced on Wednesday that it had arrested about 100 people suspected to be Rwandan troops, amid persistent reports of their incursion into eastern Congo.

"According to the head of office of MONUC-Goma, a patrol of blue helmets [UN] soldiers found about one hundred soldiers who were spotted in Rutshuru [in the east] and suspected of being Rwandans," Patricia Tome, the MONUC director of information, said on Wednesday. "MONUC is trying to confirm the identity of these soldiers."

In the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, the government of President Joseph Kabila has asked the UN Security Council to hold an emergency meeting to discuss the "situation in the east where the Rwanda authorities and the presence of the Rwandan army pose a threat", Kudura Kasongo, Kabila's spokesman, said.

On Thursday, Rwandan President Paul Kagame threatened to send his army into eastern DRC to flush out remaining Interahamwe militiamen and other Rwanda armed combatants who have refused a voluntary disarmament and repatriation programme, and continue to threaten their homeland from the Congo.

Kagame's threat sparked a rise in tension between the two neighbouring countries.

Wednesday's discovery of the suspected soldiers comes as diplomats, Congolese authorities, humanitarian and religious sources have reported that Rwandan soldiers had actually crossed into the DRC.

Tome said MONUC was concerned about the prevailing situation. She added that the international community would consider it unacceptable and unjustified if any decision was made counter to previous decisions to restore peace in the country.

"MONUC is surprised by this announcement [by Kagame to send in his soldiers into Congo] at a time when recent developments were in favour of a speedy repatriation of foreign armed groups on Congolese soil," Tome said.

MONUC is continuing its patrols by air and by road in the area, and has deployed 2,500 and 500 soldiers, respectively, to the provinces of South Kivu and North Kivu.

Another 433 UN soldiers, including 244 Pakistanis, would soon be deployed in the area, Tome said.

In April and November, MONUC reported it had spotted Rwandan soldiers in Bunagana, in North Kivu, a charge Rwanda denied.

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