DRC-RWANDA: 20,000 government troops now in east, UN says

Nairobi, 22 June 2004 (IRIN) - The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) now has 20,000 troops in the eastern region of the country, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for the Great Lakes, William Swing, said on Tuesday.

The presence of dissident soldiers, led by Gen Laurent Nkunda and Col Jules Mutebutsi, in the east of the country has led to rising tension between the Congo and neighbouring Rwanda.

Rwandan closed its border with the DRC on 6 June in response to accusations by Congolese President Joseph Kabila that Kigali was directly implicated in the brief occupation of the South Kivu capital, Bukavu, on 2 June by the dissidents.

Swing referred to the dissident activity as the most serious crisis ever experienced by the Kinshasa government, adding that it had been intensified by the rhetoric emerging from the DRC and Rwanda.

From UN headquarters in New York, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan told UN Radio: "If we are not able to stabilize and the Congo were to revert back into violence, or anarchy, the whole region would pay a price. And this is why we are focusing so much attention on this issue."

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees reported that by 18 June, over 25,000 Congolese had fled into neighbouring Burundi as a result of the deteriorating security situation in eastern Congo.

African, European and United States leaders have been making efforts to defuse tensions and have set up joint verification across the DRC-Rwandan border, a UN spokesman said at the daily briefing.

Theme (s): Conflict, Refugees/IDPs,


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