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    Rwanda threatens DR Congo return


    Civilians have been fleeing the fighting in the north-east
    Rwanda has warned it may send its troops back into the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    Rwandan Foreign Minister Charles Muligande said this would happen unless the Ugandan army withdrew from the country, and if the Congolese Government failed to return its forces to positions established in a 1999 ceasefire agreement.

    Following last October's peace deal, Rwanda withdrew its forces from DR Congo.

    Mr Muligande said the Ugandan and Congolese Governments were deploying troops near areas of eastern Congo that are held by Congolese rebels backed by Rwanda.

    Uganda has recently increased its presence near the north-eastern town of Bunia, which it recaptured from the Union of Congolese Patriots rebel group.

    'Security threat'

    Uganda and Rwanda were initially allies in DR Congo but their troops have clashed several times.

    Lieutenant Colonel Emmanuel Ndahiro, national security adviser to Rwanda's President Paul Kagame accused Ugandan government officials and army officers of working with Rwandan rebels based in Congo to destabilize Rwanda.


    Mr Muligande said this posed an immediate and direct threat to Rwanda's security.

    "If the international community has found it acceptable for Uganda to return to the DRC, for all the dubious reasons it has given, then it is legitimate that Rwanda should go into the DRC to contain this new situation," Rwanda's foreign ministry said in a statement.

    The fighting in Bunia also threatened the signing of a deal to end the five-year war in DR Congo.

    But the Rwanda-backed RCD-Goma group agreed to take part in a power-sharing government and a new unified army.

    More than two million people are believed to have died as a result of the war which began in 1998, and at one stage dragged in half a dozen foreign armies.

    14/3/2003
    Uganda tightens grip on Congo town

    Reuters


    BUNIA, Congo (Reuters) -- Uganda will delay withdrawing its troops from eastern Congo and has increased its presence in a key regional town, a senior Ugandan army officer said on Thursday.

    The Ugandan army said it would stay in Bunia, some 80 km (50 miles) from the Ugandan border, to safeguard the work of a joint Congolese-Ugandan peace committee in the region.

    Ugandan troops wrestled Bunia, the biggest town in the Ituri region, from rebels last Thursday after fierce fighting with the Union of Congolese Patriots (UPC), which had controlled most of the town.

    While fighting continued last week, warring parties agreed a constitution for an interim, power-sharing government and on the creation of a neutral international force to secure its members.

    "We leave when there is a government which is accountable, but now there is no government," Ugandan Brigadier Kale Kaihura told a news conference in Bunia.

    "This government will only come through the Ituri Pacification Commission (IPC). We can't leave without finishing this programme (setting up the IPC), and besides, we are supposed to secure the IPC."

    The IPC -- with two representatives from each government, two from the United Nations mission in Congo (MONUC) and four from other groups involved in the region -- had been due to complete its work by March 10. Uganda had agreed to withdraw its troops by March 20.

    The United Nations has more than 4,300 troops monitoring efforts to end the conflict that has carved up Congo between the Kinshasa government and a medley of rebel groups. An estimated two million people have been killed since war flared up in 1998.

    Sweden said on Thursday it would provide 90 soldiers to the peacekeeping effort, probably to help secure an airport in eastern Congo.

    "Sweden may become the first Western country to offer troops to MONUC," the government said in a statement in Stockholm.

    Swedish troops would be in place in late May or early June, pending parliament's approval. The country's only previous such mission in Africa was in the 1960s, when it contributed 6,000 troops to a U.N. mission in Congo.

    "The peace process in the Democratic Republic of Congo has made big progress in the past year and (the Swedish troops) are an important contribution to world society to promote peace peace in the country," Foreign Minister Anna Lindh said.
    More troops

    On Wednesday, the latest batch of about 1,000 Ugandan soldiers entered Bunia after walking from the Ugandan border and witnesses said they were setting up camp at Ndelele.

    The Ugandan army said it had also secured surrounding airfields which it feared could be used by rebels.
    UPC is an ally of the largest rebel group, the Rally for Congolese democracy (RCD-Goma).

    The rebels, who have demanded that Uganda withdraw its troops from Congo, had attacked Uganda army positions at Bunia airport and Ndelele, five km (three miles) from the town.

    Kaihura said the recent fighting in Bunia had delayed the Ituri Pacification Commission's work.
    "We have an international obligation to secure the IPC. It is in writing that the security of the IPC will be provided by the Uganda army," he said.

    Last week's fighting in Bunia overshadowed the March 7 signing by warring factions in the Congo conflict of a deal to restructure the army, which is designed to allow a peaceful transition to democracy once war is over.

    The agreement was signed after tough negotiations in Pretoria, South Africa.
    Commercial activity was back to normal in the main market in Bunia which showed little signs of the recent battle.

    "We lost three soldiers, and 15 others were injured... the number of civilians who died could not have been more than 30, because we avoided shelling the town," he said.
    Residents said there had been a steady build-up of Ugandan troops at the airport and at Ndelele in the last week.

    Ugandan troops stayed in Bunia after most of its forces pulled out at the end of last year, when the United Nations asked it to keep a battalion in place to ensure peace in the area, where thousands have died in recent years due to bloody ethnic clashes.
    Uganda and its Rwanda invaded Congo in 1998 in support of a rebellion to overthrow the Kinshasa government.


 
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