Wed, Dec 01, 2004 - Page 6 News List

Rwandan troop incursion prompts Congo to respond

AP , KINSHASA, CONGO, AND KIGALI, RWANDA

Thousands of Rwandan troops have crossed into the remote forested hills of east Congo, a Western diplomat said Monday, in an account supported by park rangers and local chiefs near the border of the two neighbors and wartime enemies. Congo announced it would send up to 10,000 reinforcements to "contain the Rwandan aggression."

Rwandan President Paul Kagame, speaking at the swearing-in of a senator, repeated his persistent complaints that the United Nations and Congolese forces have not done enough to disarm Hutu rebels, referred to as Ex-FAR and Interahamwe.

``Anytime the United Nations ignores or fails to deal with the problem of Ex-Far/Interahamwe, we shall do it ourselves, and this will not take long, or, we might even be doing it now,'' Kagame said.The reports of the launch of a Rwandan incursion come just days after Rwanda threatened to do just that -- send in its own forces to hunt down Rwandan Hutu rebels in east Congo, on the grounds that a 5-month-old UN-led disarmament campaign there had failed to act aggressively enough.

In Kinshasa, Congo's capital, President Joseph Kabila told international diplomats on Monday morning that he would send two or three brigades to North Kivu, bordering Rwanda, within two weeks, presidential spokesman Kudura Kasango said.

Kabila said deployment was ordered to "assure the security of the civilian population and to contain the Rwandan aggression," Kasango said.

The Western diplomat, citing his embassy's own sources, said "it is certain" that thousands of Rwandan forces had crossed into Congolese territory north of the main eastern city, Goma, since Friday.

The diplomat, speaking on condition he not be identified further, cited what he said were accounts to his embassy from its workers, from aid groups, and from others.

No clashes between Congolese and Rwandan forces had been reported, he said.

Contacted by telephone, a ranger at Virunga national park bordering Rwanda and Congo told the reporters that he had seen about 400 armed Rwanda troops cross into the park on Sunday.

The troops were well-armed and traveled in a sport utility vehicle and on foot, the ranger said on condition of anonymity, adding they appeared to be headed north, to remote volcanic mountains north of Goma.

The area is believed to hold some of the estimated 8,000 to 10,000 Rwandan Hutu rebels still in Congo.

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