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.

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.''

In the interview, Kagame also commended the United States for ``taking the right decisions to let it (the Congolese rebellion) proceed.''