Rwanda, DRC mending ties

At war with each other for most of the past decade, Kigali and Kinshasa remain wary but senior officials in both capitals say relations are slowly thawing with the upcoming DRC elections on July 30 ‘ the nation’s first multi-party polls in 40 years. “Our relations with the DRC have improved,” said Rwandan President Paul Kagame recently. He said Kinshasa had stopped supporting Hutu rebels accused of participating in the 1994 genocide of Rwanda’s Tutsi and moderate Hutu’s. A thorn in relations between the two countries has been the presence of between 8,000 and 15,000 of these rebels, currently operating as the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), in eastern DRC. In 1996 and 1998 Rwanda sent troops into DRC to fight the rebels who were opposed to Kagame’s Tutsi-led government. DRC foreign minister Raymond Ramazani Baya said: “I think we have convinced them of our desire to put an end to the activities of these rebels, who do perhaps represent a threat for them but who represent a much bigger one for DRC civilian population.” United Nations mission in DRC (Monuc) officials say they are encouraged by what they see as considerable improvement in ties. UN forces were deployed to the DRC in 1999. Analyst Hans Romkema said: “The thaw in the DRC-Rwanda relationship is, I suspect, the result of diplomatic efforts from some major donors and perhaps more importantly from South Africa.” One mechanism that has obliged the two parties to meet is the US-backed tripartite plus joint commission. The commission was formed between DRC, Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda in 2004 to improve security in the volatile Great Lakes Region. Under the commission, member countries have been to share intelligence and forge a common agenda for dealing with threats. Officials say DRC and Rwanda are ready to discuss renewed economic co-operation. Restoration of diplomatic relations at ambassadorial level may not be too far behind. Yet some sticking points remain. Kinshasa is angered by Kigali’s refusal to accept the jurisdiction of the ICJ in a claim that is filed. ‘ AP.

June 2006
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