Rwanda, DRC military chiefs meet over clashes

The Chief of Defence Staff of the Rwanda Defence Forces, Lt Gen Charles Kayonga and his Congolese counterpart, Lt Gen Didier Etumba, Wednesday met at the border district of Rubavu as Kigali sought a peaceful resolution to the escalating security situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), The New Times has reliably learnt.

The Chief of Defence Staff of the Rwanda Defence Forces, Lt Gen Charles Kayonga and his Congolese counterpart, Lt Gen Didier Etumba, Wednesday met at the border district of Rubavu as Kigali sought a peaceful resolution to the escalating security situation in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), The New Times has reliably learnt.

A reliable source, who spoke on conditions of anonymity, intimated to this newspaper that the two military chiefs “discussed the deepening conflict situation in eastern DRC between FARDC (the Congolese army) and renegade FARDC, ex-members of the former CNDP and PARECO rebels.”

The source said the meeting was organised as a swift response to last week’s flare-up of clashes between the Congolese army and the renegade fighters, adding that it was part of broader Rwandan efforts to find peaceful resolution to the situation, which has displaced thousands of civilians, with many fleeing to Rubavu.

 “Although the conflict is a DRC affair, the two military chiefs discussed the negative consequences of the conflict which have so far resulted into mass displacement of civilians, and the FDLR militia taking advantage of the conflict to gain ground, flexibility and freedom to cause more insecurity to Rwanda and DRC,” the source said last evening.

FDLR, a blacklisted terrorist organisation whose political leaders have been arrested or are under travel restrictions in Europe, 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 group crossed into the DRC at the fall of the genocidal regime in Kigali in July 1994, and went on to set up bases in the country’s eastern region, where they are accused of killing, raping and looting the local communities.

The Rwandan side, according to the source, “in view of the gravity of the situation, expressed the need for cessation of hostilities in order to lay ground for peaceful resolution of the conflict.

“The DRC side acknowledged the negative consequences of the conflict and promised to go along with the Rwandan proposal”.

The New Times understands that the two military chiefs also agreed that the RDF and the Congolese military (FARDC) should immediately plan for robust joint operations against FDLR.

Two years ago, both armies carried out a joint operation, dubbed Umujo Wetu, against FDLR, leaving the militia weakened and dispersed.

“Rwanda is keen on playing a neutral and pacifying role,” our source said.

According to Jean Claude Rwahama, the official in charge of refugee affairs in the Ministry of Disaster Preparedness and Refugee Affairs, 786 refugees crossed La Corniche border post, yesterday (by 6p.m), increasing the number of refugees who have crossed into Rwanda in less than a week to about 4,000.

The refugees are currently sheltered at Nkamira Transit Centre in Rubavu, and the government and UNHCR have teamed up to provide humanitarian assistance and other necessary services to the refugees.

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