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DRC-RWANDA: Good neighbourliness a long way off - analyst

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Photo: MONUC
KINSHASA, 5 September 2007 (IRIN) - The recent meeting between senior Rwandan and Congolese officials saw some agreement on strategies to minimise tension between the two countries, but did not achieve a breakthrough to firmly deal with the rebellion in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), an analyst said.

"The two governments more or less repeated what they had said in previous encounters, but it is some way from specifying what they expect from each other to achieve a lasting return to peace," Philippe Biyoya, professor of political science and law at the Protestant University of Kinshasa, capital of the DRC, said.
 
According to Biyoya, Rwanda should make clear to the DRC government that it wants support and no overtures to the Interahamwe or the Forces Démocratiques de Libération du Rwanda (FDLR).
 
On the other hand, DRC should be consistent in its position on the Tutsi commander believed to be supported by Rwanda. General Laurent Nkunda has renewed his campaign against the DRC army, causing thousands to flee his stronghold in the eastern DRC. Nkunda argues that he is protecting Tutsis in the Kivu area from the FDLR Hutu extremists.

Rwanda's foreign minister Charles Murigande met his DRC counterpart Mbusa Nyamwisi in Kinshasa on 3 September during a three-day visit. They discussed the consolidation of relations, the presence of ex-FAR (Armed Forces of Rwanda, involved in the 1994 genocide) fighters in the DRC and Nkunda.

"The ex FAR-Interahamwe constitute a problem, firstly for the Congolese, as they kill, rape and steal every day, but they are also a permanent menace for Rwanda," Nyamwisi told reporters. "These meetings will allow us to find a response for the people and the government. We must prevent an escalation, because an escalation is possible."

Murigande noted: "The ex FAR-Interahamwe, alias FDLR, are  the root cause of much of the insecurity and instability in the region [and]  remain militarily and politically very active in DRC and continue to constitute a serious threat to all of us. Their campaign has created fertile ground for the emergence of complicating factors like the General Nkunda phenomenon."

Working towards disarmament

The two ministers effectively announced their willingness to revitalise programmes to pacify and normalise relations between the two countries. In particular, "the two parties said they would put everything to work to disarm and return the ex-FAR and Interahamwe to Rwanda", according to the joint communiqué released at the close of the session.

They also reiterated their commitments to the principles of the Great Lakes Peace, Stability and Development pact. They referred to Article Five of the treaty, which  states that "the parties will refrain from sending or supporting armed opposition or rebel groups engaged in armed conflicts or implicated in acts of violence or subversion against  the government of another state". 
 
''We are convinced that the Nkunda problem is above all a Congolese problem which has to be resolved by Congo, but has consequences for Rwanda ''
The communiqué also set out the establishment of a tripartite commission (DRC, Rwanda, UN High Commissioner for Refugees) to organise the repatriation of Congolese refugees in Rwanda.
 
The two ministers said the re-opening of the common border would depend on security developments in eastern DRC.

"We are convinced that the Nkunda problem is above all a Congolese problem which has to be resolved by Congo, but has consequences for Rwanda," said Nyamwisi. "Most of our discussions were around this issue and ... reducing the spectre of destabilisation there [in eastern DRC]."
 
Murigande led a mission of four senior officials, the first such delegation since 1998.  DRC accuses Rwanda of supporting rebels in DRC, while Rwanda says Congo harbours Interahamwe forces guilty of acts of genocide in Rwanda in 1994.

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