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EU may support military action against Hutu rebels, Ajello says

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KIGALI, 24 Jun 2005 (IRIN) - The EU special representative to Africa's Great Lakes region, Aldo Ajello, said on Friday the Union might support military action against Rwandan Hutu rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo if they refuse to disarm and return home.

"Since the political option is not working for the time being, because we don't have the feeling that FDLR [Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda] are trying to implement what they said in their declaration [to disarm], then we are moving into the military option," Ajello said at a news conference in the Rwandan capital, Kigali.

His warning to the rebels followed a meeting with President Paul Kagame.

The Hutu-dominated FDLR signed a declaration in Rome in March announcing that it was ending its war against Rwanda and denounced the 1994 genocide in which many of its core members are suspected to have taken part.

Despite that declaration three months ago, Ajello said the rebels had shown no commitment to return freely.

In May, the rebels said they were reluctant to return home until they received more and firmer guarantees about their future in Rwanda. However, Kagame dismissed this request saying his government would not grant any special terms to ease the rebels' return.

Ajello said on Friday that six Congolese army brigades would be deployed to eastern Congo to root out the FDLR, a move that the European bloc would support logistically. Rwanda has also been demanding similar action of the Congolese government, in the past.

Ajello said two of the brigades would be deployed to the troubled northeastern district of Ituri, while the rest would be deployed to the eastern provinces of North and South Kivu to deal with the Rwandan Hutu rebels there.

"You cannot assume that we will convince the people to come if the threat on the military side is not strong and credible," he said. "We keep preparing the military option and if they don't come, we'll implement this option."

The government in Kinshasa has not yet given public confirmation of the deployment details outlined in Ajello's comment. Ajello said the EU would also support a proposed African Union force to be deployed to the east to help disarm the Rwandan rebels.

Many leaders of the FDLR Hutu rebels are accused of involvement in the Rwandan genocide in which at least 937,000 Tutsis and politically moderate Hutu were killed between April and July 1994. Some FDLR rebels were members of the former Rwandan army, known as ex-FAR, and pro-Hutu militiamen, known as the Interahamwe. Both groups have been blamed for planning and carrying out the genocide. Rwanda has made it clear that all genocide suspects would be put on trial.

The presence of thousands of Rwandan rebels in eastern Congo during the last 10 years has fuelled regional instability. Rwanda has used the presence of the rebels to justify its invasion of eastern Congo in 1996 and 1998.


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