Rwanda dismisses DRC accusations
The Minister of Foreign Affairs, and Government Spokesperson, Louise Mushikiwabo, has said Rwanda has no interests in meddling in the internal affairs of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
“We understand that the government in the DRC is facing multiple challenges on several fronts and that using Rwanda as a scapegoat is an attempt to distract and deflect attention away from these domestic crises,” she said in a statement released yesterday.
She was reacting to claims by Congolese officials that hundreds of the M23 rebels had been trained from Rwanda and that Kigali was turning a blind eye to a “conspiracy” against Kinshasa.
“We have said repeatedly that we are not involved, and there is no evidence to the contrary. Unfortunately, the failure of DRC to fix its long-standing problems has made them spill over to the neighbourhood,” Mushikiwabo said in the statement.
Congolese government spokesman, Lambert Mende, on Saturday is reported to have told reporters in Goma, the regional capital of the troubled North Kivu province, that some fighters of M23, a rebel outfight created by mutinous from the Congolese army, in the east had been trained in Rwanda.
But, in a statement yesterday, Minister Mushikiwabo described the allegations as “very unfortunate”.
“It is regrettable that DRC has chosen to make allegations in the media shortly before we were to sign the joint verification taskforce report, whose purpose is to sift through allegations and separate fact from fiction,” she said in the statement.
Similar claims have surfaced over the recent weeks, first in a leaked UN report and then by Human Rights Watch, a US-based lobby with a long history of animosity with Kigali.
The basis for the claims was preconised on the testimonies of an alleged group of 11 deserters from the new rebel group.
Rwanda described the claims as “false and dangerous rumours”, and challenged those behind them to back them up with valid evidence.
Mende’s remarks contradict Kinshasa’s earlier position on the UN and HRW claims.
He told reporters in Kinshasa in May 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.
Rwanda’s national interest is served by containing conflict and building deeper bonds of peace with our neighbours, Mushikiwabo responded to earlier allegations.
The mutineers are former Congolese rebels who joined the army under a March 2009 peace deal but defected in April complaining of poor treatment.
Mende claimed that the territory of Rwanda was used for the preparation of a conspiracy which started with a simple mutiny and has developed into a dangerous plan to rupture the peace between the two countries.
But Mushikiwabo cautioned that it was “tragedy for the people of the eastern DRC that its government had chosen to
fall for a big lie, and it is these people who would suffer from any resur
gence of xenophobia”.
Kigali has hosted a string of high-level diplomatic and military meetings, involving Congolese officials, designed to help find a solution to the crisis.
In May, at least four high-profile meetings involving foreign and defence ministers, as well as military and security chiefs, from both sides took place in Kigali and in the border town of Rubavu in an effort to help find peaceful settlement.
During one of the meetings, both sides signed cooperation agreements in trade, energy and aviation.
They had also agreed to devise a joint operation plan against the FDLR militia – one of the main causes of the continued instability in the region – and to share intelligence.
It had been hoped that the increased engagement between the two former foes would help cement the bilateral ties that have been growing over the last three or so years.
In 2009, Kigali successfully brokered a deal between Kinshasa and the then CNDP rebels, who were led by Gen. Bosco Ntaganda, which saw that latter integrate in the national army. Ntaganda, who is wanted by the ICC for alleged war crimes between 2002 and 2003 in Ituli region, has distanced himself from M23 – composed largely by former CNDP and PARECO rebels and led by Col. Sultani Makenga.
More than 11,000 Congolese refugees have crossed in Rwanda in the wake of the renewed clashes, with thousands others ending up in Uganda. Prior to that, Rwanda was already home to more than 55,000 Congolese refugees who ran away from the violence of the yesteryears in their home country.
The US, Canada, and the EU last week expressed support for the DRC, its neighbours, and partners to work together to pacify the country. They also called for the disarmament of FDLR – who are largely blamed for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.
Contact email: james.tasamba[at]newtimes.co.rw