Nkunda has legitimate grievances – Kagame

President Paul Kagame has said that Congolese rebel leader General Laurent Nkunda has legitimate political grievances against the DRC government.Addressing a monthly press conference yesterday at Village Urugwiro, Kagame said Nkunda was protecting a section of Congolese from being exterminated by among others Rwandan militias holed up in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).He said he was strongly opposed to those likening Nkunda to the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), saying that the latter was composed of extremists responsible for the 1994 Rwanda Genocide.
Kagame addressing journalists yesterday at Village Urugwiro. (Photo/G. Barya)
Kagame addressing journalists yesterday at Village Urugwiro. (Photo/G. Barya)

President Paul Kagame has said that Congolese rebel leader General Laurent Nkunda has legitimate political grievances against the DRC government.Addressing a monthly press conference yesterday at Village Urugwiro, Kagame said Nkunda was protecting a section of Congolese from being exterminated by among others Rwandan militias holed up in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).He said he was strongly opposed to those likening Nkunda to the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), saying that the latter was composed of extremists responsible for the 1994 Rwanda Genocide.

“Some people in Congo are trying to elevate FDLR by putting them in the same category as Nkunda. I don’t think Nkunda, whatever mistakes he could be held accountable for, should be put in the same category as FDLR. He has some political grievances which are legitimate,” Kagame said.

He said FDLR had no political agenda but to carry on with their Genocide campaign, adding that Kigali would never relent on pointing out how the group’s continued activities are a menace to the region.

It is the first time that Rwanda publicly stated that Nkunda has genuine political grievances.

However, the President said his government was not in any way supporting Nkunda as some media reports have recently claimed.

“Rwanda is not involved in any way and we have no interest (in getting involved),” he said.

A fortnight ago, fresh fighting broke out in the eastern DRC until mid last week when the UN Mission in Congo (Monuc) struck a shaky ceasefire, but moments after Nkunda accused government troops of violating the truce.

Kagame said that perpetual allegations that Rwanda was backing Nkunda troops was due to historical factors mainly the existence of FDLR on DRC territory and the fact that Kinyarwanda speaking Congolese are at the centre of the violence. 

Nkunda says he is protecting Kinyarwanda-speaking Congolese who have previously succumbed to attacks from FDLR and other militias in the region.

“Since we left Congo (in 2002) we left the matter to the UN and the Congolese government,” he said.

However, Kagame said Kigali was keenly watching developments in eastern DRC since FDLR might use the current situation there and attack Rwanda.

“On the issue of FDLR we have set a bottom line. That line is they cannot destabilise our country, and we will do whatever we can in our means to prevent that.”

He said efforts by Rwanda to mediate between Kinshasa and Nkunda earlier in the year were sabotaged when the Congolese government decided to launch fresh attacks against the dissident army General.

“Rwanda was torn apart between the request (from Congo government) to help mediate the talks and the fresh attacks against Nkunda,” Kagame said.

Kinshasa requested Rwanda and South Africa to initiate talks between both sides but renewed fighting dealt a big blow to the progress that had been made in resolving the standoff including mixing of military brigades.

Kagame said Kigali remained willing to play a mediator’s role, adding that that would depend on the two warring parties.

“We are not dying to be mediators but should anybody think that we can contribute, not necessarily mediation, we will not run away,” he said, adding that the deal under which Rwanda withdrew her troops from the DRC in 2002 obliged DRC to disarm and help repatriate the Rwandan militias.

The President also expressed his frustration at the way the UN has handled the issue of FDLR among other negative forces fighting other regional governments, all in eastern DRC. 

“MONUC doesn’t want to discuss FDLR and other negative forces in eastern DRC.

But when it’s about Nkunda, they (become excited) and start to move tanks,” he said.  He criticised the rationale behind UN peacekeeping missions, saying the whole system left a lot to be desired.

He said it was incomprehensible for the UN to fail to create peace in war zones, yet it spends billions of dollars on peacekeeping missions.

“They say that other people must first create peace before they start to keep it. How do you keep peace that you have not created?

  In my view those that create peace can even keep it better.”

The President said that if part of the money spent on UN peacekeeping missions was used to develop areas that are in conflicts, it could probably bring about peace. “

The way UN is shaped disturbs,” he decried.

The UN has up to 17,000 troops in the Congo but the peacekeepers have instead been marred with allegations of rape, as well as trading arms and intelligence in exchange for gold from various militias including FDLR. 

Asked why the government does not extend an olive branch to FDLR, the President said that Kigali had on several occasions used dialogue to have some rebels back home, although majority of them still preferred violence.
 
He said that it was through talks that a number of former rebels returned home.

They include former FDLR overall commander Maj. Gen. Paul Rwarakabije and several others who returned home in 2002.

“Rwarakabije and others were contacted by the government as part of efforts to address this problem peacefully.

He was not captured. He was persuaded (to return home) and that underlines our commitment to talk peace,” the President said. 

Kagame said that the window for peaceful repatriation and other options to end the rebels’ menace remain open.

He said the government’s policy was not annihilation but rather peaceful coexistence and reconciliation of all Rwandans.

“For instance we have released thousands of people who committed Genocide to the extent of being seen as if we are being insensitive to what they did,” he said.

At least 60,000 Genocide convicts and suspects have been conditionally released over the past five years.

Ends

 

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