27 June 2012

Rwanda: DRC Claims in Letter to UN Regrettable - Mushikiwabo

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Louise Mushikiwabo, has described as "disingenuous and regrettable" recent accusations contained in a letter by the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to the United Nations that Kigali is backing anti-government mutiny there.

She warned such actions risked stirring up conflict in the region. Mushikiwabo was on Monday addressing a news conference at the UN headquarters in New York, US, as she began a three-day official visit to the United Nations and Washington.

She was accompanied by Rwanda's Permanent Representative to the UN, Eugène-Richard Gasana, and Presidential Advisor on Security Affairs, Major Patrick Karuretwa.

Highly placed sources indicate that the visit was partly aimed at "clearing the air about the situation in eastern DRC in view of the lies that have recently been peddled against Rwanda". But the trip was also part of Rwanda's continued campaign for Africa's slot at the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member.

Mushikiwabo regretted that Kinshasa disregarded the ongoing bilateral talks between the two countries and instead chose to peddle false rumours against Rwanda - noting that the letter was forwarded to the UN at the time she and her delegation were still on their way from the latest meeting in the Congolese capital.

"The letter was actually sent while I was on a plane back to Kigali after the meeting with DRC authorities on the situation in Eastern DR Congo."

Earlier last week, Mushikiwabo led a delegation of senior officials including military and security chiefs to Kinshasa, for bilateral talks under the framework of the Joint Verification Mechanism, with their Congolese counterparts, including Foreign minister Raymond Tshibanda. The delegation was also received by Congolese President Joseph Kabila.

The talks were a follow up to earlier bilateral efforts to find a peaceful resolution to the renewed conflict in eastern DRC pitting government troops and the newly formed M23 Movement rebel group, largely composed of the former CNDP and PARECO rebels.

During the Kinshasa meeting, it was decided that the defence ministers from both sides, accompanied by the chiefs of the respective militaries, hold another meeting in the Congolese eastern town of Goma - the capital of North Kivu province, where the fighting is taking place.

Defence and Military Spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Joseph Nzabamwita, said yesterday that the Goma meeting was still on, noting that Defence Minister Gen. James Kabarebe and the Chief of Defence Staff, Lt. Gen. Charles Kayonga were due to travel there.

"As far as I know, the meeting will take place as earlier scheduled," he told The New Times yesterday noting that members of the Joint Verification Team - set up by both sides - had already met to draw the Terms of Reference for tomorrow's meeting.

"We need peace... both the DRC and Rwanda inherited a situation we did not make, so we have to continue trying to find solutions together...But reports and letters and so forth are not going to solve the problem, Mushikiwabo said.

Last week, 11 Rwandans, who had allegedly been beaten up, tortured, with some of them reportedly burnt, were "dumped" at the border post between Rwanda and the DRC, she said.

The minister warned that some websites and media linked to Congolese government were spreading "bigotry against Rwandans".

"This is very reminiscent of the rhetoric just before the genocide against the Tutsi in 1994. Certainly Rwanda keeps a very close watch on that kind of pronouncements," she said.

In a similar development, Mushikiwabo lashed out at Human Rights Watch (HRW) for accusing Rwanda of involvement in the eastern DRC crisis.

"It's ridiculous," she said.

"These multiple reports that keep cropping up, some of which have been retracted, have a dangerous impact on lives of people" in DRC and Rwandan citizens in the region.

"That is extremely dangerous". "I want to clear the air about some of the recent security situation in Eastern DRC. There seems to be quite a flare of misinformation and disinformation," she added.

She noted that; "Whatever happens, violence should end quickly in DRC. Refugees should be allowed to return home. There has been so much energy on rumours and allegations. We have seen violence against Rwandan citizens in DRC."

Since the war broke out nearly two months ago, Rwanda has received more than 13,000 Congolese refugees, with thousands others fleeing to Uganda. These add to more than 40,000 other Congolese citizens who have been refugees in the country.

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