Rwanda’s army is ready to withdraw its peacekeepers from Sudan’s western region of Darfur and said it will pull out should the United Nations publish a report accusing Rwanda of atrocities in neighboring Congo.
“All logistical and personnel resources are in place,” Rwandan army spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jill Rutaremara said in an e-mailed statement today from the capital, Kigali. “The pull out will take the shortest time possible.”
The Paris-based newspaper Le Monde reported on Aug. 26 that investigators from the UN High Commissioner for Refugees uncovered mass human-rights abuses in Congo in the 1990s, including the possible genocide of ethnic Hutus by Rwandan forces. Rwanda’s government said in a statement a day later that the UN report was “immoral and unacceptable.”
More than 1 million ethnic Hutus fled Rwanda in 1994, mostly to the Democratic Republic of Congo, following a 1994 genocide in which 800,000 people died. Rwandan government forces raided refugee camps in the country, then known as Zaire, in their search for Hutu leaders who were believed to have carried out the genocide.
The UN report detailed massacres, rapes and looting by forces from various countries involved in two wars in Congo from 1993 to 2003, Le Monde said.
Rwanda has 3,556 personnel serving in the UN African Union Mission in Darfur as well as the UN Mission in Sudan, Rutaremara said in a phone interview. All of Rwanda’s forces will be withdrawn if the UN’s “outrageous and damaging” report is published, Rutaremara said.
Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo told reporters in Kigali today the UN report attempted to “rewrite history by suggesting a double genocide” and reiterated the threat to withdraw its troops from Darfur.
Peacekeepers in Darfur are trying to help end a seven-year conflict between the government and rebel groups that has triggered the world’s largest humanitarian operation. The conflict has led to the deaths of as many as 300,000 people, mainly due to illness and starvation, according to UN’s estimates. Sudan’s government puts the violence-related death toll at 10,000.
“The UN cannot applaud our forces for being most disciplined in peace-keeping missions, and again accuse the same army for genocide,” Mushikiwabo told reporters in Kigali today. “They can’t have it both ways.”