DRC-RWANDA: Kabila to send troops to counter threat from Rwanda
Kinshasa, 30 November 2004 (IRIN) - With the possibility growing daily of Rwandan troop incursions into eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, Congolese President Joseph Kabila announced on Monday he would send some 10,000 more troops to the area.
"The head of state has informed members of CIAT [the International Committee to Accompany the Transition] of the deployment," Kudura Kasongo, Kabila's spokesman, told IRIN on Monday in the capital, Kinshasa.
CIAT is made up of ambassadors accredited to Kinshasa from the five permanent members of the UN Security Council as well as Belgium, the former colonial power, South Africa and others.
"Within two weeks, two to three brigades, amounting to 10,000 men, will arrive in the east of the country, precisely in North Kivu Province, to protect the civilian population and to stop aggression by Rwandan troops," Kasongo said.
Kabila's announcement comes one week after Rwanda's president, Paul Kagame, warned he would strike at Rwandan Hutu militants poised to attack their homeland.
Some of the militants - made up of Interahamwe militiamen, former Rwandan soldiers and Rwandan refugees - are accused of having carried out the 1994 Rwandan genocide in which 937,000 Tutsis and politically moderate Hutus died, according to the latest government account.
Although there is yet no independent verification of a Rwandan troop presence in eastern Congo, Kagame repeated his warning on Tuesday.
"We shall take up arms and pursue them [the militants]. It will not be long now. It could even be today," he said.
He said the militants were in Rusizi, a locale between Bukavu and Uvira in South Kivu Province. He said they had mingled with Congolese army troops with the intent of advancing onto Rwanda. Many, he added, were also concentrated in North Kivu Province
"MONUC [the UN Mission in the DRC] knows this very well but has decided to maintain silence," Kagame said. "Failure from the side of the UN and the international community to deal with this threat means that we must pursue these extremists ourselves."
MONUC estimates that 8,000 militants have already been voluntarily repatriated to Rwanda but that another 8,000 to 10,000 remain in Congo. In early November, MONUC and the Congolese army began joint patrols in South Kivu to protect civilians and pressure the militants to lay down their guns and return to Rwanda. However, soon after, the militants said they would resist attempts to disarm them by force.
The Congolese army commander in South-Kivu, Brig-Gen Mbuza Mabe, said on UN Radio Okapi that he was dissatisfied with the voluntary disarmament programme.
"The Interahamwe and other Rwandan combatants are laughing at MONUC and us," he said. "It is time to go to the second phase consisting of a forced disarmament and repatriation."
This week Rwanda and Congo were set to create a Joint Border Verification Committee as agreed to in September on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York. The committee, which was to have been made up of senior army officials from both countries, would investigate allegations of attacks on either side of the border.
However, such cooperation may not be possible with some reports claiming that Rwandan troops have already invaded the Congo. A Congolese army officer close to the army chief of staff, who did not want his identity disclosed, told IRIN that Rwandan troops had infiltrated Congo "five or six days ago" between North and South Kivu.
"Short skirmishes took place between the three battalions of the Rwandan army and the Congolese army," he said.
He declined to say precisely where the fighting took place and if there were casualties.
Since Friday, after Rwanda issued its initial threat, MONUC began air and road patrols to determine if Rwandan soldiers had crossed the border, a MONUC spokeswoman, Jacqueline Chenard, said. As yet, she added, "We can neither confirm nor deny."
Kabila's spokesman said that his decision to send more troops to the east did not imply that Rwandan soldiers had already invaded.
[On the Net: DRC-RWANDA: Hutu rebels surrender for repatriation