July, 09, 1997
Rwandans led revolt in Congo, minister says
WASHINGTON (Reuter) - Rwandan Defense Minister Paul Kagame said this week that Rwandans had planned and led the rebellion against former Zairean President Mobutu Sese, the Washington Post reported Wednesday.
In an interview in Washington Monday, Kagame told the newpaper that Rwanda had provided training and arms for the rebel forces in Congo, formerly known as Zaire, even before the push to overthrow Mobutu began last October.
``... Kagame's account suggests that the war, which began in the eastern Congo near the borders of Rwanda and Uganda, was planned primarily by Rwanda, and that the plan to remove Mobutu originated in Kigali as well,'' the Post said.
``There are not many people who thought that Mobutu was very weak,'' Kagame told the Post. ``They thought of Mobutu as a big monster who wouldn't be defeated, with his big hat and his big stick. They thought little Rwanda and big Zaire,'' Kagame said. ``Only when we started did they look at the map and see the possibilities.''
Rwandan forces participated in the capture of at least four Congolese cities -- the capital Kinshasa, the southern copper-mining town of Lubumbashi, the key western crossroads of Kenge, and the diamond center of Kisangani -- Kagame said.
Kagame, a Tutsi, also responded to allegations that Tutsi officers of the Rwandan army had ordered massacres of Rwandan Hutu refugees inside Congo.
The Hutus fled to Zaire from Rwanda in 1994 after Kagame's Tutsi-led army took power in Rwanda, ending a campaign of massacres of Tutsis by Hutu troops and militias. The Hutu refugees feared reprisals for the Hutu genocide of up to an estimated 1 million Tutsis and Hutu moderates.
Asked about allegations that Tutsis were given a free hand by Congolese rebels to attack the Hutu refugees, Kagame did not deny the possibility of individual atrocities. But he lashed out at United Nations officials who have accused the Rwandan army and the Congolese rebels of massacre.
He said that he and other Rwandan officials had warned the U.N. and Western countries to dimilitarize the refugee camps and separate the former Hutu fighters from the civilian refugees or ``face the consequences.''
``It is my strong belief that the United Nations people are trying to deflect the blame for failures of their own making onto us,'' he said. ``Their failure to act in eastern Zaire directly caused these problems, and when things blew up in their faces, they blamed us. These are people who want to be judges and nobody can judge them.''
In the interview, Kagame also commended the United States for ``taking the right decisions to let it (the Congolese rebellion) proceed.''