DR Congo + 1 more

Rwanda: Kigali ready to defend its security, Kagame says

NAIROBI, 13 March (IRIN) - Returning from an official visit to the United States, President Paul Kagame reacted to the fighting in Bunia, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) by saying that Rwanda would defend its security interests "without provoking anybody", Radio Rwanda reported on Tuesday.
According to the radio, Interahamwe (Rwandan extremist Hutu militia) and the former Rwandan Armed Forces (ex-FAR) combatants in Bunia "are uniting with Kinshasa troops to destabilise the region". The radio quoted Kagame as saying that Rwanda was watching the activities in the DRC with great interest.

On Tuesday, the radio also quoted the Rwandan army spokesman, Jill Rutaremara, as claiming that the Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) were forming an alliance with "genocidal" forces in the DRC to destabilise Rwanda.

The UPDF ousted the Union des patriotes congolais rebel group from Bunia last week. The UPDF spokesman, Maj Shaban Bantariza, told IRIN on Monday that a "foreign force" had fought alongside the UPC rebels.

"As you know, we withdrew our forces from the DR Congo, and we had expected the Kinshasa government, the UN and others who were involved in the Pretoria [South Africa] agreement or even in the wider agreement of Lusaka [Zambia] - we thought these people would take care of what remained of the problem, that is, after we withdrew, we were supposed to see action taken on ex-FAR and Interahamwe and their activities," Kagame said. "But if they continue and come close to Rwanda and threaten our security, naturally we shall take measures that are appropriate to deal with that situation."

Kagame said events in the DRC had not so far posed a threat to Rwanda's security, "even though it indeed has a connection with our security, but given the frameworks that are there to handle these issues, and given the distance where some of these activities are taking place, we wish to take the option of continuing to watch the situation as it evolves."

"At any moment if that developed into a threat against the country, you should have no doubt that we will deal with it," he warned.

In an interview on Radio Rwanda on Tuesday, Rutaremara denied that Rwanda was massing troops along its border with Uganda, and instead accused Uganda of spreading "rumours" about increased Rwandan army deployment "to divert public attention" from the fighting in Ituri.

Radio Rwanda quoted Kagame as saying on Wednesday that he hoped "the whole world is not ignorant about the situation so much that they would have to believe what is being said. The history of that part of the DR Congo is known. It is known how in the last three years there have emerged different factions in that area of Ituri, and those who created those factions are known, those who have supported them against each other are known. The same people making any allegations against Rwanda are the very people who created that situation in Ituri, and they are the ones making an issue out of that situation up to this moment."

Rwanda has repeatedly asserted that it withdrew all its forces from the DRC by late 2002. "So, for us, we will not be dragged into any provocation. We will focus on our own immediate security interest and continue to support a peace agreement or other agreements that have been concluded to help the peace process generally in the DRC," Kagame said.

"As for our neighbours, whatever problems they have with us, we will just remain cool and calm about it and go about our usual businesses, but for sure our security will always be very dear and a priority to us. So we will do what it takes to defend our interests in so far as security is concerned, without provoking anybody or without being provoked by anybody," he added.


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