*Economic cooperation, joint energy ventures take centre stage
RWANDA-DRC Border - President Paul Kagame yesterday paid a historic visit across the border to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) where he held discussions with his counterpart Joseph Kabila regarding the security in the region as well as economic cooperation between the two countries.
For over 3 hours, the two leaders held discussions in a closed door meeting at Ihusi Hotel, approximately 200 metres inside the Congolese territory before they emerged to address a joint press conference in No Man’s Land.
The two Heads of State vowed to maintain pressure on the FDLR with the Congolese leader categorically noting that the days of the former Ex-FAR forces currently holed up in Eastern DRC ‘are numbered’.
In reaction to question on the continued activities of the FDLR, Kabila said that Operation Kimia II, jointly mounted by the Congolese Forces (FARDC) and the UN peace keeping force (MONUC), will continue hunting down the rebels currently terrorizing Congolese villages until they are totally incapacitated.
Kabila said that between November and December, an evaluation on the achievements of the operation will be made to ascertain its impact, adding that by the end of the year, the FDLR will have been extremely weakened.
Kimia II followed a joint operation against the FDLR by Rwandan and Congolese forces earlier this year, a group that is largely composed of elements responsible for the 1994 Genocide against Tutsi in Rwanda.
The two leaders welcomed the achievements of the joint efforts meant to foster peace and stability and eradicating all armed groups operating in the Eastern part of DRC, especially the FDLR.
They also expressed satisfaction on the appointment of ambassadors and the revival of the CEPGL, an economic bloc that brings together Rwanda, DRC and Burundi.
“It is my pleasure in the sense that it is a sign of friendship, of security and of relations I have developed between Rwanda and DRC. On that basis alone, I am happy or even happier” Kagame told the press.
“It is also on this note that I want to say that we even want to do more to ensure that this stability lasts longer and the relations become excellent.”
He said that they would do whatever they can to maintain the brotherly and sisterly relationship.
The two nations pledged to work together to foster economic cooperation especially trade, infrastructure as well as plans to explore methane gas in Lake Kivu jointly.
Once again Kagame assured the Congolese that the issue of Laurent Nkunda is a small problem which has been put out of the equation and that the two countries are sorting out the issue, but the bigger challenge remains creating stability, not Nkunda.
Asked about the history of clashes and turbulent relations the two countries have had and whether it won’t happen again, Kagame said that what matters today is not the past but what the future means for the two countries, adding that both can build on their past experiences to shape the future.
“We don’t need to be prisoners of the past, but we want to shape the future to be bright,” Kagame said.
The two Presidents pledged to visit both cities (Kigali and Kinshasa) and agreed to meet in December to review relations and discuss any arising issues.
Timeline of events
11.52am: Rwandan Ministers of Defence, Energy, Internal Security, Army bosses arrive at the border and are welcomed by their Congolese counterparts.
12.05Pm: Foreign Minister Rosemary Museminali arrives, welcomed by her Congolese Counterpart Alexis Thambwe Mwamba.
12.15: President Paul Kagame arrives at the Rwandan border post, his host Kabila also arrives on the other end, waiting to welcome him.
-National Anthems of the two countries played by the DRC Police Band.
12.18pm: Kagame inspects the Guard of honour mounted by Congolese soldiers.
12.20pm: Kagame and Kabila shake hands, greet waiting ministers and army officers.
12.25pm: Traditional dancers welcome the two leaders who wave to the waiting crowd.
12.28: Presidents enter Ihusi Hotel for a tête-à-tête meeting.
3.00: Presidents come out to issue a joint communiqué and address a joint press conference.
3:40 Press conference ends, Kabila bids farewell to Kagame.