UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
BURUNDI-DRC-RWANDA: Rwanda deploys troops along border with Burundi, DRC
KIGALI, 26 Apr 2004 (IRIN) - Rwanda has deployed troops heavily along its border with Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo in anticipation of possible attacks from Hutu rebels, Rwandan military spokesman Col Patrick Karegeya told IRIN on Monday.
He said the deployment was prompted by Rwandan Hutu rebel attacks on 8 April on the northwestern Rwandan province of Gisenyi.
"It is evident that these extremist forces are preparing to invade our territory," he said. "We have decided to deploy heavily along Burundi and DRC to halt any of such attacks."
He said the attacks were expected to come from Burundi's Kibira Forest and the Virunga volcanoes on Rwanda's northwest border with DRC.
On Thursday, he had denied reports that Rwanda had massed troops on its border with Burundi. "What people could have seen in the region bordering Burundi is [the] mere readjustment of our troop deployment," he had said.
He was responding to news reports of a sharp rise in tension along the border, with Rwanda anticipating that the Congo-based Rwandan Hutu rebels would use Burundi's Kibira Forest in Cibitoke Province to attack Rwanda.
In Burundi, army chief of staff Brig-Gen Germain Niyoyankana said at a news conference on Saturday that Rwandan troops made an incursion into Burundi late Thursday, through Ruhororo in the northwestern province of Cibitoke and reached Kaburantwa Valley, in Cibitoke Commune.
He added that Burundian army officials had protested to Rwandan military officials over the incident. "We told Rwanda officials that Burundi cannot tolerate this act which may seriously affect the relations between Burundi and Rwanda," he said.
Niyoyankana said Rwandan military officials had understood their concern and ordered the immediate withdrawal of the troops from Burundi.
Rwandan "Interahamwe" militias and former Rwandan soldiers are reportedly gathered in Congo's eastern province of South Kivu, where fighting with Congolese troops has been reported at Sange, Rugeji and Remera areas.
Meanwhile, the UN Mission in the DRC, known as MONUC, has accused Rwandan forces of returning to the DRC. MONUC reported that Rwandan soldiers surrounded a UN patrol last week and ordered it to return to its base.
"MONUC noted on 21 April the presence of Rwandan troops ... in the Bunagana area, on DRC territory, where a Rwandan officer demanded a MONUC patrol withdraw," MONUC reported.
However, Rwanda denied its army had crossed into Congo. "It is very unfortunate that MONUC can go ahead to make such baseless allegations without contacting us," Karegeya said. "In our view, MONUC has failed because it merely stand by as extremists forces gather to attack our territory. We have not sent troops back into the DRC."
In the Congolese capital, Kinshasa, Foreign Minister Antoine Ghonda told reporters on Monday that the government considered the presence of Rwandan troops in the Congo as a threat to the trust and bilateral relations between the two countries.
He said the presence of the Rwandans was unjustifiable because MONUC had not confirmed allegations by the Rwandan government that Rwandan Hutu rebels belonging to the Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda (FDRL) were planning incursions into Rwanda from the DRC.
Moreover, he said, the Congolese government had banned FDLR activities in 2002 and had declared FDLR leaders "personnae non grata" in the country.
Rwanda has in the past complained that neither UN troops nor the Congolese army was doing enough to root out the Hutu rebels who fled to Congo after the 1994 genocide that claimed the lives of 937,000 people, according to Rwandan government estimates.
Rwanda officially withdrew its troops from Congo in 2002, under a regional peace deal brokered by South Africa to end a five-year conflict that has led to the deaths of up to three million Congolese and millions others displaced.
MONUC reiterated that the presence of foreign troops in the Congo was illegal. "MONUC denounces the restrictions imposed on the free movement of its troops throughout DRC," it said.
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