- The governments of Rwanda and Burundi may again send troops into Congo Kinshasa (DRC) if Kinshasa does not finally take action against the militias still slaughtering Tutsis. Both claim Friday's massacre was masterminded by Congolese militias. The UN, meanwhile, has called for restraint.
Burundi's army chief, Germain Niyoyankana, yesterday accused Congolese soldiers in participating in Friday's attack on a Burundian refugee camp. His troops would not be stopped by the Congolese border when tracking down the perpetrators, he said, while adding he expected Congolese authorities to take firm action on their own. The Rwandan government already on Monday made similar statements.
Witnesses in the Gatumba refugee camp in Burundi maintain that the armed men entering the camp on Friday, slaughtering over 150 Congolese Tutsi refugees, had come from nearby Congo. Survivors claimed to recognise the perpetrators, which they had fled from in eastern Congo.
Burundian transitional President Domitién Ndayizeye on Saturday also claimed to know that the perpetrators had were Hutu extremists based in eastern Congo. According to the Burundian army, the armed men had crossed the border into Congo after the attack. Similar claims were made by Rwandan President Paul Kagame immediately after the assault.
The Rwandan government has during the last decade held Kinshasa responsible for housing, training and arming the Hutu extremist ex-FAR and Interahamwe armed groups that took part in Rwanda's 1994 genocide, killing almost one million Rwandans. Congo-based ex-FAR and Interahamwe attacks on Rwandan soil were the official reason for two earlier Rwandan invasions of Congo Kinshasa, in which also Burundian troops took part.
The announcement by Rwandan and Burundian authorities that troops may be sent to the Congo "to pursue the rebels" is therefore not an empty threat. In particular authorities in Rwanda - a country still living with the 1994 genocide trauma - cannot let ethnically motivated massacres on Tutsis by Hutu extremists go by unanswered. Burundi will follow suit if backed up by the strong Rwandan army.
Burundian General Niyoyankana yesterday thus said his government would do anything necessary to "avoid a new attack from Congo," including "an offensive" in Congo Kinshasa itself. Charles Muligande, the Foreign Minister of Rwanda, made similar statements.
According to the Rwandan government, there are still armed "Rwandan, Burundian and Congolese" rebel groups aiming at exterminating the Tutsi people. Their stronghold is, according to Rwanda, in eastern Congo. The Rwandan army, faced with Friday's massacre on Tutsis in Burundi, would not wait for new attacks on Tutsis in Rwanda, the government said.
Both Rwanda and Burundi have however made it clear that action to disarm the Hutu extremists in Congo would be welcome and could hinder troops deployment there. The presidencies of both countries have urged Kinshasa to act firmly against the militias and arrest the perpetrators.
Officially, the Kinshasa government has demonstrated its intentions of cooperating. Congo Kinshasa's Vice President Azarias Ruberwa - himself a Congolese Tutsi - participated in the Burundi mass burial of the massacred refugees. Kinshasa has expressed its shock and grief and has promised to take firm action if the attackers are found to have crossed into Congo.
The Congolese Ministry of Defence however has made it clear that it will not accept any renewed Rwandan or Burundian troops deployment on its territory. Any invasion would be answered by military actions from the Congolese army, it was warned.
The Rwandan and Burundian threats have also caused concern in the international community, which for the last years has struggled to end the civil war in Congo that was induced by the last Rwandan invasion. The UN peacekeeping operation in Burundi (ONUB) has urged Burundi to refrain from military actions in Congo, saying that violence will not solve the situation.
Acting UN Spokesman Stephane Dujarric in Now York this night added that UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan was strongly concerned over developments in the Great Lakes region. "It's only through negotiations that this situation can be resolved, and we hope that the Burundian authorities will exercise restraint," Mr Dujarric said.
The UN peacekeeper mission, set up only two months ago, meanwhile has promised to improve security for the many refugees living in Burundi. Security patrols had already been stepped up, ONUB said. The mission however reacts to claims that it should have been able to hinder Friday's massacre, saying the UN repeatedly had called on the Burundian government to improve security for the refugees.
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