Sun, Jul 04, 2004 - Page 7 News List

Rwanda reopens border with Congo to quell war fears

UNSTABLE Although trucks and other vehicles streamed into Congo, talks between the two countries' leaders have not resolved any issues

AP , KIGALI, RWANDA

Rwanda yesterday reopened its border with Congo in a bid to ease tension that brought fear of renewed war between the two neighbors and led to the sealing of the frontier.

Commercial trucks, blocked from ferrying goods into Congo and beyond, streamed across the reopened frontier after daylight yesterday.

Rwanda had sealed the border with its vast neighbor on June 6 after Congolese officials accused it of backing renegade Congolese troops who seized control of the strategic city of Bukavu days earlier.

Allegations

Rwanda denied the charges, closed the border and said it would reopen only after the UN and the African Union send missions to investigate the various allegations.

The two bodies have yet to verify the accusations.

President Paul Kagame and Congo's President Joseph Kabila held talks in Nigeria on June 25 in a bid to ease tensions.

The two leaders agreed to send a joint mission to look into Rwanda's allegations that Congo is massing troops for a cross-border attack and Congo's accusations that Rwanda supported renegade army commanders who captured a strategic border city for a week in June, before the border was sealed.

Rwanda reopened the border following requests from the international community to ease the suffering of people living in eastern Congo who depend on importing supplies through Rwanda.

"Our borders opened at six this morning and people have started crossing over," said Protais Mitali, minister of state for regional cooperation.

Tensions between the two countries raised fears of another war, less than two years after they signed a peace deal that ended a five-year conflict.

Rwanda sent troops into Congo in August 1998 to back Congolese rebels seeking to oust then-President Laurent Kabila, accusing him of backing insurgents threatening regional security.

Peace deal

Rwanda withdrew troops from Congo in November, 2002 following a peace deal in which Congo pledged to hunt down, disarm and send home Rwandan insurgents based in Congo.

The Rwandan rebels include members of the former army and Interahamwe militiamen who led the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. More than 500,000 minority Tutsis and political moderates from the Hutu majority were killed in the 100-day slaughter orchestrated by the extremist Hutu government then in power.

Rwanda says Congo hasn't fulfilled its promise to disarm the Rwandan insurgents.

Congo's war split the nation and killed an estimated 3.3 million people, most through famine and disease.

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