Anne Penketh: Why Rwanda's leader is the power broker in this conflict

Share
Related Topics

The unprecedented joint visit to Rwanda by David Miliband and Bernard Kouchner, the foreign ministers of Britain and France, was a diplomatic recognition of President Paul Kagame's crucial role in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo from the two countries which have supported rival sides in the region's long proxy war.

The UK and US-backed Rwandan President has been the power broker there since the aftermath of the 1994 genocide brought his Tutsi rebel faction to power. After the three-month killing spree in which almost one million Tutsis and moderate Hutus perished, the notorious Hutu militias, known as the Interahamwe, and former Rwandan army troops crossed into eastern Congo (then Zaire), where they terrorised hundreds of thousands of Rwandan refugees who had fled the genocide.

Mr Kagame – who broke off relations with France in 2006 over a French inquiry related to the genocide – has vowed to root out the Hutu militias from eastern Congo ever since. But Rwanda has also been accused of having a business reason for keeping a foothold in the east, where illegal mining has plundered Congo's resources.

Rwandan forces first invaded Congo in 1996 to clean out the extremist Hutu militias from refugee camps. Mr Kagame supported the Tutsi rebel leader who emerged from the jungle, Laurent Kabila, in his successful drive to topple the Zairean dictator Mobutu sese Seko. But the Rwandan strongman subsequently turned on his protégé for failing to expel the Hutu militias.

Rwandan troops finally pulled out in 2002 under peace accords that ended a war that dragged in five other countries, lured by Congo's vast mineral wealth. But in 2004, Mr Kagame threatened to invade again unless the Hutu militias stopped attacking Rwanda from across the border, and was scornful of the UN's failure to disarm them.

Now, he is denying accusations that he is providing military support to the latest Tutsi rebel – a former Congolese army general, Laurent Nkunda – in his assault on the main city in eastern Congo. After Mr Kagame met on Friday with the American assistant secretary of state for African affairs, Jendayi Fraser, she was quoted as saying that Rwanda and Congo needed to address "the fundamentals". For Rwanda, that means dealing once and for all with the "génocidaires."

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A sculpture illustrating the WW1 Christmas Truce football match in Liverpool  

It might have been 100 years since the Christmas Truce, but football is still changing the world

Jim Murphy and Dan Jarvis
In 1215 the Magna Carta forced the English King (at the time King John) to respect the laws of the land and guaranteed rights and protections to his subjects  

Magna Carta will be 800 years old next year – the perfect reminder of the rights and freedoms we must hold dear

Nigel Farage
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there