The New Times (Kigali)

29 May 2012

Rwanda: Govt Slams UN Report On DRC

The Government has condemned reports allegedly contained in an internal UN document claiming that Rwanda is supporting the war in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Louise Mushikiwabo, described the reports as "categorically false and dangerous rumours."

The BBC, yesterday, reported that the internal UN report cited "defecting soldiers, who said they had been trained in Rwanda under the pretext of joining the army, before being sent over the border to fight."

"Rwanda has maintained from the outset that the current instability in the eastern DRC is a matter for the Congolese government and military. Rwanda's national interest is served by containing conflict and building deeper bonds of peace with our neighbours," Mushikiwabo said.

The Minister further criticized the international community for "neglecting real issues of stability by limiting itself to symptoms instead of the root cause of suffering in our region", and called on the UN force in the DRC (MONUSCO) to return "to its original mandate instead of spreading rumours and generating reports."

"This billion-dollar-a-year operation makes up one quarter of the UN's entire peacekeeping budget, and yet it has been a failure from day one. Instead of pursuing its mandate to eradicate the FDLR menace and help stabilise the region, MONUSCO has become a destabilising influence, primarily concerned with keeping hold of its bloated budgets and justifying its ongoing existence," Mushikiwabo said.

She added: "Rwanda has received several (Congolese) refugees who are severely wounded and traumatised as a result of the UN's failure to protect civilians in eastern DRC."

As many as 9,239 refugees have crossed into Rwanda over the past one month as fighting between Congolese troops (FARDC) and mutinous soldiers, who identify themselves under the name M23, rages on.

Rwanda has maintained peaceful and constructive relations with the government of the DRC since 2009, since then both countries have enjoyed a significant "peace dividend", Mushikiwabo observed.

The minister emphasised that Rwanda treasures peace with itself and its neighbours, since it is the key to economic development.

"Peace in the region enables us to attract investment, slash the poverty rate, and extend the horizons of opportunity for our citizens. That's why claims that Rwanda would undermine good relations with our neighbours are not only wrong, but wrong-headed - it would be in clear violation of our own national interest."

She added: "We will continue to work closely with the DRC government to bring back peace and security that the people of our region have been denied for far too long."

DRC's doubts

Since the outbreak of the fighting, Rwanda's primary focus has been providing safe refuge for Congolese citizens who have entered its borders in recent weeks, minister noted. "Through collaboration with UNHCR, the World Food Programme and the World Health Organisation, the refugee situation remains challenging but manageable."

Reacting to the reports, the Congolese Minister of Communications, Lambert Mende, told reporters in Kinshasa yesterday that his government viewed with suspicion claims that Rwanda was behind the rebellion in the country's east, saying the rumours could be aimed at trying to create tensions between the two countries.

He said it was highly unlikely that a rebel group would happily reveal the identity of whoever was backing them.

The latest allegations will have shocked many observers, too, considering that Kigali has lately played a crucial peaceful role in the wake of the renewed hostilities - hosting a string of high-level diplomatic and military meetings, involving Congolese officials, designed to help find a solution to the crisis.

This month alone, at least four high-profile meetings involving foreign and defence ministers, as well as military and security chiefs, from both sides have taken place in Kigali and in the border town of Rubavu in an effort to help find peaceful settlement.

Both countries also announced plans to further bilateral ties, specifically in the areas of energy, aviation, trade and security.

In 2009, Rwanda helped mediate between the Congolese government and CNDP rebels, which saw the latter integrated in the national army.

Later, armies from both countries carried out joint operations against the DRC-based Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) militia, a group largely blamed for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, which claimed the lives of at least one million people.

Over the recent weeks, Kigali and Kinshasa have agreed to work more closely to resolve the ever-present threat of FDLR militia, who are believed to be taking advantage of the current situation to reorganise, rearm and seize new territories, with the ultimate aim of destabilizing Rwanda.

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