Rwanda, DRC defence and security chiefs hold talks in Kigali
A high-powered Rwandan military team held an overnight meeting with a seven-member Congolese delegation in Kigali on Thursday as both sides continued talks aimed at finding immediate peaceful resolution of the renewed conflict in eastern DRC, it has emerged.
The Rwandan side was led by the Minister of Defence, Gen. James Kabarebe, while the Congolese were led by President Joseph Kabila’s special envoy and director general of the country’s intelligence services, Col. Kalev Mutond.
The talks, which began at 8p.m at Kigali Serena Hotel, lasted for six hours, underlining the importance of the subject under discussion.
Gen Kabarebe confirmed to The New Times that the meeting had indeed taken place.
“It was one of the several initiatives that are taking place in a context where the two countries’ Defence and Security Chiefs have been working closely together to bring a peaceful resolution to the ongoing crisis in Eastern DRC,” he said.
The minister added: “The meeting conclusions were that both countries agreed that war cannot be a solution to the ongoing crisis and that no effort should be spared to provide respite to the civilian populations caught in the flames of violence.
“It also concluded that the DRC-based FDLR should be prevented from exploiting the current situation to rebuild strength and regain initiative; and that both countries are determined to work together in resisting and dispelling rumors, manipulations and intoxication aimed at drawing them back into conflict.”
He added that both countries will continue to exchange information and updates on the developing situation on the ground.
The meeting was the second involving senior defence and military chiefs from both sides in a space of just two days, following another one held in Rubavu, on Wednesday, between the RDF Chief of Defence Staff, Lt Gen. Charles Kayonga, and his Congolese counterpart, Lt Gen. Didier Etumba.
The renewed hostilities in DRC’s North Kivu province have driven more than 10,000 refugees across the Rwandan and Ugandan borders within a week.
“While the conflict remains a DRC affair, Rwanda is concerned as a responsible member of the African Union and of the international community, as well as a neighbour of the DRC,” a senior military officer told The New Times on condition of anonymity.
He added: “It is common knowledge that the ongoing conflict has a direct consequence on Rwanda by virtue of the continued influx of refugees in Rwanda, but it is also causing unfortunate loss of innocent lives.”
“There are also concerns related to the fact the FDLR is taking advantage of the situation to reorganise, re-arm and reposition itself with a mission to destabilise Rwanda.”
FDLR is largely composed of elements responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, which claimed more than a million lives in a record three month period.
The militia crossed into the DRC in July 1994 following the defeat of the genocidal machinery, and went on to set up bases in the country’s eastern region, where it has repeatedly been accused of killing, raping and looting the local communities.
Statistics from the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness and Refugee Affairs indicate that about 4,000 Congolese refugees have already arrived at the Nkamira Transit Camp in Rubavu, leaving the facility overstretched.
Another 8,000 civilians have crossed into the neighbouring Uganda, as the conflict, pitting mainly the Congolese forces against mutinous soldiers, who previously belonged to the former CNDP and PARECO rebels, worsens the fragile security situation in the country’s east.
Rwanda was already home to more than 50,000 Congolese refugees who fled from the conflicts that dogged the country’s eastern region in the past.
“Kigali is a neutral party which is engaging DRC in an attempt to find an immediate solution for the good of the innocent Congolese civilian populations, but also for the continued stability of the wider region,” said the top Rwandan military officer.
In the Rubavu meeting between the two countries’ military chiefs, on Wednesday, it was also reportedly agreed that RDF and the Congolese military (FARDC) should “immediately plan for robust joint operations against FDLR”.
In 2009, a short-lived joint operation by the Rwandan and Congolese forces, dubbed Umuja Wetu, had left FDLR a much weakened group.
Observers fear that the deteriorating security situation could now vitalise the genocidal militia, as well as other Congolese and foreign militia outfits which had somewhat gone underground in the recent years, worsening the humanitarian situation in the troubled region.
Contact email: james.munyaneza[at]newtimes.co.rw