UNITED NATIONS (AFP) – Rwanda’s foreign minister said Monday that “disingenuous” accusations by neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo over involvement in an anti-government mutiny risked stirring up conflict in the region.
Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo strongly condemned “rumors and reports” about Rwanda’s backing for rebels in eastern DR Congo she said had encouraged the kind of “rhetoric” that existed before Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.
Mushikawabo is visiting the UN headquarters and Washington this week amid growing controversy and tension over a UN report said to give evidence that Rwandan military officers have helped DR Congo rebels.
DR Congo’s Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda wrote to the UN Security Council last week saying Rwandan involvement in the strife was “evolving dangerously toward a rupture of the peace” between the neighbors.
The letter called on the council to condemn Rwanda’s actions in DR Congo, where government forces are battling a mutiny by former soldiers in the M23 group.
Mushikawabo called the DR Congo letter “regrettable,” saying that she was just leaving Kinshasa after talks with Tshibanda when it was sent.
“It is disingenuous, I think, to sit down to call for a meeting and while you are asking to negotiate and to talk, and you are asking your neighbor to come and support, you are sending letters accusing your neighbor,” Mushikawabo told reporters at UN headquarters.
“So these are difficulties that we have in our relationships.”
She said Rwanda “has never closed its door” to talks with the DRC.
“We need peace… both the DRC and Rwanda inherited a situation we did not make, so we have to continue trying to find solutions together,” Mushikawabo added.
“But reports and letters and so forth are not going to solve the problem.
“People need to just calm down and look at this situation, look at the history, look at the context. Otherwise, there is so much conflicting information out there that it risks getting the conflict worse rather than better.”
The minister denied her country was supporting armed groups in the region.
“Rwanda would not participate in any destabilizing act in the region and in eastern DRC in particular,” she added.
Mushikawabo said the reports had already led to attacks on Rwandans.
Last week, 11 Rwandan men were “beaten, tortured, some of them burned and then dumped at the border post between Rwanda and the DRC,” she said.
The Rwandan government was also “very concerned” at “rhetoric” and “bigotry” on websites and some media close to the DR Congo government calling for attacks on Rwandans and ethnic Tutsis.
“This is very reminiscent of the rhetoric right before the genocide in 1994. Certainly Rwanda keeps a very close watch on that kind of pronouncements,” said Mushikawabo.
An annex to a UN sanctions committee report on the troubles in DR Congo contains evidence of Rwandan military involvement in the M23 uprising, according to diplomats.
Some diplomats and the Human Rights Watch group have said the United States is leading countries holding up the report. US officials have strongly denied the charge.
“Of course, Rwanda’s top army leadership in no way — and I am very categorical about this — in no way, would be involved in destroying the peace they have been working very hard to build,” the Rwandan minister said.