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Rwanda threatens action in DRC over Burundi massacre

The government of Rwanda has threatened to intervene again in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to disarm Hutu rebels based in eastern Congo, according to a statement issued on Sunday.

Rwanda issued the statement two days after a massacre of at least 160 people on Friday in a refugee camp near Burundi's border with the DRC. The victims were Tutsis from eastern DRC, known as Banyamulenge. Many were women and children.

"We reiterate our demand for the forcible disarmament, demobilisation and repatriation of the ex-FAR/Interahamwe," Rwanda said, referring to Hutu militias in DRC. "Failure to disarm may force Rwanda to take measures which may not necessarily be in the line of the thinking of [the] international community. Rwanda is not prepared to tolerate the status quo."

On Monday, DRC government spokesperson Henri Mova Sakinyi expressed displeasure at the Rwandan statement. "The Rwandans are operating in [the] logic of the war returning to Congo," he said. "We are not responding to the Rwandan request because we have already been working to disarm Hutu and other foreign combatants for five years together with MONUC". MONUC is the UN mission in the DRC.

A Burundian rebel group, the Forces nationales de liberation (FNL) led by Agathon Rwasa claimed responsibility for Friday's attack. Rwasa's FNL is the only rebel movement in Burundi that has not laid down its weapons in accordance with a peace agreement concluded in Arusha, Tanzania, in August 2000. But survivors are reportedly saying that combatants came from the DRC.

The Rwandan government's statement called the attack a sign of "incipient ethnic cleansing now taking root in the region and especially in eastern DRC." It also called the massacre "a result of the genocidal ideology... nurtured and propagated by ex-FAR/Interahamwe forces."

Many of the Hutu rebels took part in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and have since been living in eastern DRC. The UN estimates that 10,000 are in the country. Rwanda's justification for invading the DRC in 1996 and 1998 was to flush them out.

DRC vice-president Azarias Ruberwa has stated that Hutu militias were involved in Friday's attack though he also implicated non-Hutu combatants including Mayi-Mayi militias. The Mayi-Mayi had supposedly been integrated into the Congolese army.

Tambwe Muzuri, coordinator of the Mayi-Mayi, has denied the accusation.

DRC President Joseph Kabila condemned Friday's attack. His spokesperson, Kudura Kasongo Mwana Luaba, said that responsibility needed to be established. "Those found guilty should be punished," he said.

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