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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
Wednesday 26 May 2004

RWANDA: UN mission threatens action on Hutu rebels

KIGALI, 26 May 2004 (IRIN) - The UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo, known by its French acronym MONUC, could soon use force to disarm Rwandan Hutu rebels based in eastern Congo, a senior UN official said on Wednesday.

"We are prepared to increase pressure on those armed groups to understand that their time is up," Jean-Marie Guehenno, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, told reporters in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, after talks with President Paul Kagame.

Since the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, eastern Congo has been used as a refuge and base for Hutu forces opposed to the Kagame's administration.

The eastern Congolese provinces of North and South Kivu, as well as the northeastern district of Ituri remain volatile despite the end of a five-year civil war in 2003, which ravaged most of the country and claimed an estimated 2.5 million lives.

"We are looking at the ways to make the best use of our force to create the right pressure so that they [the rebels could] disarm," Guehenno said.

He added: "They have to understand that with the right military means, we have made significant progress in Ituri. We are going to make the same kind of difference in the Kivus."

The use of force by peacekeeping troops operating under the UN's Chapter Seven mandate has only been limited to Ituri District. Chapter Seven, which authorises MONUC's use of "all necessary means" to fulfil its mandate, is presently not applicable to the Kivus.

Guehenno said MONUC would begin "in the near future", to exert pressure to have the Hutu rebels disarmed and repatriated.

"With increased military capacities, MONUC has more options and FDLR [Forces démocratiques de libération du Rwanda] has less," he said.

"Under our mandate, we have actually to protect civilian populations but we see that those armed groups often threaten civilians in places where they are occupying," Guehenno said.

In response to Guehenno's remarks on the disarmament of the Hutu rebels, Kagame said, "As a process, it gives us some good feeling that we are finding a solution."

Following the signing of a series of agreements, Rwanda withdrew its troops from eastern Congo in July 2002. However, relations between the Kigali and Kinshasa governments deteriorated again in April 2004, when the Rwandan army said it had foiled an attack by Hutu rebels operating from the Congo.

[ENDS]



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