Fri, Jun 04, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Congo berates Rwanda

REUTERS , BUKAVU, CONGO

Soldiers loyal to former rebel General Laurent Nkunda guard the governor's residence in Bukavu on Wednesday, where the Banyamulenge rebels set their headquarters.

PHOTO: AFP

Congo's President Joseph Kabila said on Wednesday Rwandan troops had helped renegade soldiers seize an eastern border town and vowed to fight back, raising fears of a resumption of war between the two countries.

Rwanda denied any involvement in the fighting.

Kabila said on state television that Congo's army had been mobilized to retake control of Bukavu, which was captured earlier on Wednesday by dissident fighters after a week of clashes with government troops.

"Since this morning there are Rwandan troops with ... the insurgents," Kabila said. "It's an aggression against our country by Rwandans who control the town of Bukavu."

"We have decided to mobilize our resources and men and finances to defend ourselves," he said.

The renegade troops who seized Bukavu are former rebel fighters from the Rwandan-backed RCD-Goma, the biggest rebel faction during the Democratic Republic of Congo's five-year war which was officially declared over last year.

Rwandan Foreign Minister Charles Muligande said there were no Rwandan troops anywhere on Congolese territory.

"These accusations are without foundation. Each time they have a situation they cannot handle they blame us instead of taking responsibility for themselves," he said.

Sebastien Lapierre, a spokesman with the United Nations mission (MONUC) in Bukavu, said he could not confirm the presence of Rwandan troops in the town.

The UN Security Council called for an immediate end to the violence in Bukavu and condemned the "local incitement of hatred" against Banyamulenge tribesmen.

The two neighbors have a history of bad blood.

Rwanda first invaded Congo in 1996, saying it was defending itself from attacks by Hutu rebels who had fled to what was Zaire after being involved in Rwanda's 1994 genocide of 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

It attacked again in 1998, sparking a messy regional war which sucked in the armies of half a dozen African countries. Three million people died, mainly from disease and starvation.

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