Congo blames Rwanda for fresh fighting
Clashes between government forces and Tutsi rebels could force 30,000 people from their homes in eastern Congo.
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"It wasn't a realistic deal in the first place," says Gregory Mthembu-Salter, an analyst for the Economist Intelligence Unit in Johannesburg, and expert on Congo. Too many armed factions profit from their control of mineral resources, and worry about facing possible war crimes if they come out of the bush, he says. "They just haven't gotten beyond the zero-sum game."Skip to next paragraph
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The Congolese government says the current troubles are the instigation of Rwanda and the government of Paul Kagame. On Wednesday, the Congolese government announced plans to ask the UN Security Council to meet to discuss what they called the invasion of Rwandan soldiers on Congolese soil. Congolese Foreign Minister Antipas Mbusa Nyamwisi told Reuters news agency that he had "hard evidence," including captured Rwandan soldiers, to prove that Rwanda was intervening in Congo.
"The Rwandans are indeed there. They now want to take Goma [capital of North Kivu province]," Nyamwisi told Reuters. Rwandan officials deny the charges.
On the day of the attack on Rumangabo, it was clear that the conflict had escalated. Government tanks lined the road in the front line village of Rugare, pointing their turrets toward the hills where Nkunda's troops make their home. Even a day later, when Nkunda's troops retreated from Rumangabo and the military camp had returned to government control, local villagers continued to pack up their belongings and head for crowded displacement camps.
"We never thought that the camp could be taken, that's why we are forced to leave our village," says Sekibibi Sibomana, a farmer who left during the fighting on Wednesday and has returned to collect food for his family in the displacement camp at Kibumba. "We were sure that the army was very strong, and they could protect us, but they didn't."
Most of the refugees in this area blame the recent fighting on Nkunda, a former Congolese army general who took up arms against the government because of its inability or unwillingness to protect his ethnic Tutsi group against the Hutu-led FDLR.
Gen. Nkunda recently announced his plans to widen his rebellion to liberate the whole of Congo from the control of the government in Kinshasa.
Col. Delphin Kahimbi, commander of the Congolese army effort to retake Rumangabo, pulls out Rwandan Army backpacks and Rwandan Army ID cards as evidence that the recent takeover of his military camp at Rumangabo was a direct intervention by Rwanda.
"This was the Rwandan army with a small group of CNDP [Nkunda's rebel group]," says Col. Kahimbi. "We know that CNDP does not have the capacity. It is the Rwandan Army that has the capacity to come here."
One MONUC official, speaking on condition of anonymity, says he still holds out hope that the January peace agreement can be patched up. He also says that it is unlikely at this stage that the conflict will draw in neighboring countries, even if Congo pushes the UN Security Council to act.
"Kagame has too much to lose [than to enter Congo]," the MONUC official says. "He wants Rwanda to join the Commonwealth. The only way he gets involved here is if there is a massacre of Tutsis. Then he has the humanitarian justification to intervene."