Rwanda + 1 more

Rwanda-Uganda: Kigali denies massing troops along border with Uganda

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NAIROBI, 12 March (IRIN) - Rwanda denied on Tuesday that it was massing troops along its border with Uganda.
In an interview on Radio Rwanda, an army spokesman, Jill Rutaremara, instead accused Uganda of spreading "rumours" about increased Rwandan army deployment along the border. He said the rumours were "to divert public attention" from the fighting in the northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) district of Ituri.

The radio quoted Rutaremara as claiming that the Ugandan army was forming an alliance with "genocidal" forces in the DRC to destabilise Rwanda. "We have actually not amassed any troops at our border with Uganda. The troops that are there are a small sizeable force that we usually keep at our border with Uganda," he said

The Uganda People's Defence Forces (UPDF) spokesman, Maj Shaban Bantariza, told IRIN on Monday that a "foreign" force had fought alongside those the Union des patriotes congolais (UPC) rebel group when the Ugandans ousted the UPC from Bunia in Ituri District last week. "It is true that there was a foreign force fighting against our troops in the [north-]eastern town of Bunia when they attacked our forces, but I cannot name the force," he said.

"This force, of course, has not been on good terms with us for some time now, but at least we managed to repulse them all, together with the rebels," Bantariza said.

Although it has been widely alleged that elements of the Rwandan military were present in the region, Ugandan government officials have refused to name Rwanda as the "foreign force".

However, Rutaremara dismissed reports that Rwandan troops had fought alongside the UPC against the Ugandans in Ituri. "I regard it as a diversionary tactic aimed at diverting us and diverting Ugandans - diverting the international community from what is taking place in Ituri, and from other plans that are being hatched by Ugandans against Rwanda," he told Radio Rwanda.

He said Rwanda was "greatly concerned" by what was happening in Ituri and Bunia in the DRC. "In particular, we are concerned by the alliance that is being formed between the UPDF forces, the [DR] Congolese forces, the Mayi-Mayi [pro-Kinshasa tribal warriors] forces and the genocidal forces, that is ex-FAR [former Rwandan armed forces] and Interahamwe [Rwandan Hutu extremist] militias, in Ituri region," he said.

Rutaremara said such an alliance posed a security threat to Rwanda. He said that the Interahamwe and ex-FAR had been having "problems getting supplies" from the DRC capital, Kinshasa. "But now that they have linked with the Kampala regime and the Kinshasa regime, then they pose even a bigger threat to us," the radio quoted Rutaremara as saying.

Rwanda has repeatedly asserted that it had withdrawn all of its forces from the DRC by late 2002.

[ENDS]

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