DR Congo + 1 more

DRC-Rwanda: MONUC unable to confirm Rwandan troop presence

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KINSHASA, 21 March (IRIN) - A spokesman for the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), known as MONUC, said on Thursday that MONUC was unable to confirm reports that Rwandan troops had re-entered the country after their withdrawal earlier this year.
"We are not in a position to confirm the accusations," Hamadoun Toure said.

He was responding to reports that truckloads of Rwandan and Burundian troops had re-entered North Kivu Province between 13 and 16 March. The pro-Kinshasa government Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie-Kisangani/Mouvement de liberation militia and a Roman Catholic bishop, Melchisedek Sikuli, have also made such accusations.

Sikuli said numbers of Rwandan soldiers had been seen last weekend in Kirumba, Kayla and Kanyambayonga in the Lubero area of North Kivu Province on their way back into the DRC. He said thousands of people were fleeing the reported incursion, and that 152 internally displaced persons (IDPs) had arrived in Kyimba, having fled Pinga in the Walikale area, where the presence of Rwandan soldiers had first been reported. He said another 1,227 IDPs from Pinga had arrived in Kayla on Wednesday.

Sikuli did not specify the number of Rwandan troops the IDPs had reportedly seen. He said, however, that "according to those who escaped, the soldiers have killed mostly the Wanianga, Wakobo and Walendu ethnic groups".

He said the troops had withdrawn two days ago and had subsequently assembled on the shores of Lake Edward in the vicinity of the fishing villages of Nyakakoma, Vitshumbi and Ishasha.

Meanwhile, the Okapi UN radio said on Wednesday that some MONUC observers had reported the presence of Rwandan troops in the DRC.

On Friday, however, Rwanda denied that its troops had entered the DRC. The Rwandan special envoy for the DRC, Patrick Mazimpaka, told IRIN that civilians might have mistaken members of some of the various fighting groups in eastern DRC for Rwandans.

"We have not sent troops back into the Congo," he said from the Rwandan capital, Kigali.

When Rwandan troops first entered the DRC, he said, they had walked and left the same way. He said they never rode in trucks. Mazimpaka also denied that Rwandan troops were now massing on their side of the border with the DRC, but said if they were the action would be justified.

This, he said, was because of the continued presence of Ugandan troops in the DRC's Ituri District close to the Rwandan border, and the threat of infiltration by members of the Interahamwe extremist Hutu militia and of the former Rwandan army, ex-FAR, the two groups responsible for the 1994 Rwandan genocide of Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus.

Convened to discuss this threat, the Rwandan parliament summoned Defence Minister Maj-Gen Marcel Gatsinzi and the armed forces chief of general staff, Maj-Gen James Kabarebe, on Wednesday.

Radio Rwanda reported that parliament had requested that all diplomatic avenues be exhausted towards reducing this threat before any country thought of going to war. However, parliament said if war did break out, it should be fought on DRC, as opposed to Rwandan, territory.

[ENDS]

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