The New Times (Kigali)

27 September 2013

Rwanda: Kagame, Kerry Discuss Regional Security

President Paul Kagame and the US Secretary of State John Kerry on Thursday held bilateral talks which revolved around the security situation in the Great Lakes region, particularly in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The meeting sought mechanisms that will enable Rwanda and the US to maintain close working relations in efforts towards restoring peace and security in the region.

Addressing journalists shortly after the meeting in New York, Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo, said: "The forum was about working more closely with the US government on regional stability, while preserving the core security interest of our country and keep moving on to eventually reach at state of stability in the region."

"The meeting was very productive, it was about where we are today and what needs to be done to actually get out of the crisis mood that has prevailed since April last year, it was about securing the interests of Rwanda and supporting Rwanda's contribution to regional stability," she said.

She added, "It's important to remember that the kind of understanding and analysis that has prevailed in the eastern DRC has been superficial."

Earlier this month, a regional Heads of State summit on the DRC crisis was held in the Ugandan capital Kampala, to find a "lasting solution" to the ongoing conflict, which last month threatened to spill over to Rwanda, after 36 mortar bombs landed into the border district of Rubavu.

Kigali responded by warning that the continued violation of its territorial integrity by the Congolese forces and FDLR, a genocidal militia would no longer be tolerated.

Mushikiwabo said that there are many aspects and complexities that shroud the crisis in the DRC that have been overlooked.

"We talked about those aspects and looking at the DR Congo crisis as one in many successive crises that we have known since the end of the Genocide against the Tutsi," said the minister.

She particularly said that the continued existence FDLR militia on the Congolese territory is always overlooked by the international community, yet this group is an important part of the problem.

"The FDLR is not an issue that should be overlooked; we have seen in recent years that it's been swept under the rug almost to the point of acting as if this current crisis has no origin."

FDLR is composed of elements responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda in which over a million people died in a space of 100 days.

The militia is also accused of human rights violations in DRC.

Asked whether the US understands the root cause of the DRC crisis, Mushikiwabo said that she believes the US understands "very well" that the centre of the crisis is the FDLR.

"The US understands what is at stake and strongly believes that Rwanda has a security interest that needs to be protected but how that feeds into other aspects of the crisis is what needs to be adjusted in order for us to move on."

At the meeting, she said that Secretary Kerry pointed out that the DRC crisis has too many actors and interests that are both known and unknown who make it difficult to implement the activities that have been agreed upon to bring stability in the region.

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