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Kagame wants two weeks in DR Congo

By Vision Reporter

Added 2nd December 2004 03:00 AM

International concern was growing yesterday after Rwandan President Paul Kagame said his country’s troops would launch an operation in pursuit of Rwandan Hutu rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

International concern was growing yesterday after Rwandan President Paul Kagame said his country’s troops would launch an operation in pursuit of Rwandan Hutu rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

By E. Allio, A. Mugisa and Agencies

International concern was growing yesterday after Rwandan President Paul Kagame said his country’s troops would launch an operation in pursuit of Rwandan Hutu rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

In a letter to the African Union (AU), Kagame wrote that he hoped the operation would not last longer than two weeks and that it would only target the rebels. “I trust that within a period not exceeding fourteen days from the start of the envisaged operation, a solution will be found that will allow for the speedy return of Rwandan troops to the confine of her borders,” said the letter, dated November 25.

“Rwanda would not target any Congolese forces, but on the contrary hopes to work with them to solve the problem, something we have requested several times from the DRC government,” he wrote, to the current head of the AU Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.

Amid fears that Rwanda was once again invading its vast, mineral-rich neighbour, the head of the UN mission in DRC, MONUC, in the eastern town of Goma told journalists that scores of what appeared to be Rwandan soldiers had been seen in the area.

“I received information that has yet to be confirmed that a team we sent to Rutshuru region in Virunga park, had come across a group of 100 soldiers suspected to be Rwandans,” the MONUC chief, M’Hand Djalouzi, said. The sighting came a day after Kagame defied international pressure by announcing that his troops would target Rwandan Hutu extremists because the UN and the Kinshasa government had failed to disarm them.

The UPDF said yesterday it had not deployed on the DR Congo border contrary to press reports.

The Monitor said on Wednesday that the army deployment was precautionary. The paper quoted army spokesman Maj. Shaban Bantariza as saying the army would block possible crossing points for Ugandan rebels based in eastern Congo.

Bantariza said he made the statement a year ago when the UPDF was deployed to forestall Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) and People’s Redemption Army (PRA) attacks.

“This is what exactly I told the AFP, BBC and other media in Kampala when they contacted me about the speculated deployments,” Bantariza said in a statement.

He said the Ugandan troops, which are based at Bunagana in Kisoro up to the Lake Albert shores, were guarding against ADF and PRA who have bases in eastern DR Congo. He said Rwanda and Congo were aware of the troops’ presence there. Bantariza said Uganda would abide by regional agreements aimed at securing peace.

The US said Wednesday it was sending a senior diplomat, Donald Yamamoto, to Rwanda and the DR Congo this week to urge both countries to resolve their disputes peacefully.

“We believe both countries should solve their difference diplomatically and not through the exchange of gunfire or the movement of troops in the area,” deputy State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said.

He said Washington had been unable to independently verify the presence of Rwandan soldiers on DR Congo territory but renewed calls for the two countries, along with Uganda, to hold talks to ease tensions.

Britain has urged Rwanda not to carry out its threats to send troops into DR Congo, warning it could have “very serious repercussions” for the central African countries.

“We’re very concerned by reports that Rwanda is considering a cross-border incursion,” a Foreign Office spokesman said. “We have been seeking to forestall any such action by the Rwandan government.”

Kagame wants two weeks in DR Congo

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