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Rwanda a ‘Scapegoat’ for Eastern Congo Conflict, Kagame Says

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June 19 (Bloomberg) -- Democratic Republic of Congo is using neighboring Rwanda as a “scapegoat” for conflict in the east of the country, Rwandan President Paul Kagame said.

A 2009 peace accord between Congo’s government and rebels with links to Rwanda has failed, Kagame said, according to comments posted by Rwanda’s presidency on the social media website, Twitter, today. “Governance problems” are to blame for the continued conflict in Congo’s eastern region, Kagame told reporters in Urugwiro Village in Rwanda.

“The crisis has to be understood as a breakdown in relations between DRC and its own citizens, not Rwanda,” Kagame said.

Since April, more than 200,000 people have fled fighting in eastern Congo between the army and the rebels, who allegedly have links to Rwanda, according to Congolese officials.

Congo and Rwanda fought a series of wars directly or via rebel proxies beginning in the late 1990s until the 2009 peace agreement. Since then, the two countries have improved relations and collaborated to fight Rwandan ethnic Hutu rebels who operate in eastern Congo and whose leaders may have links to the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

’Can’t Believe Them’

Congo’s Minister of Communication Lambert Mende did not answer his mobile phone when called by Bloomberg News today.

“When our Rwandan friends say the problem is only Congolese, one can’t believe them,” Mende said in a June 16 interview in Kinshasa, Congo’s capital. Hutu rebels come from Rwanda and as many as 300 members of the current rebellion in eastern Congo were allegedly recruited in Rwanda, Mende said.

The UN Security Council said June 15 it would back an investigation “into credible reports of outside support to the armed groups.”

The rebels have an “appalling” record of human rights abuses and must face justice, the UN’s high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, said today in an e-mailed statement. Their leader, General Bosco Ntaganda, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes, while other senior figures in the movement have allegedly recruited child soldiers and massacred civilians in the region, according to the statement.

Ntaganda ran a mineral-smuggling operation from the region, a report by the UN Group of Experts on Congo said in December. Congo is Africa’s largest producer of tin ore, which is mainly found in the east.

To contact the reporter on this story: Saul Butera in Nairobi at sbutera2@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Paul Richardson at pmrichardson@bloomberg.net.

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