“The EU should treat countries involved in the Congo conflict according to their interest in the conflict, instead of grouping them all together.” This was contained in a statement made in an interview of the Vice-President and Minister of Defence Major General Paul KAGAME on Wednesday 13th January 1999, by journalists from WDR, a German TV network.
The Vice-President made this statement in reaction to a question from the journalists regarding proposals for the EU to freeze development assistance to countries involved in the Congo conflict. The Vice-President added that while Rwanda is involved for genuine reasons of self-defence, other countries are involved for business or economic reasons. “It would be wrong for the EU, not to make a distinction between those like us for whom this is a question of the survival of our nation and its people, and those who don’t even share a border with Congo and whose primary interest is known to be commercial.”
The Vice-President added that if the EU implemented this policy, it would only lead to suffering among the poor in Rwanda, but would not weaken Rwanda’s resolve to defend itself.
On the question of Rwanda’s involvement in the conflict, the Vice-President said Rwanda is prepared to withdraw all troops from Congo as soon as firm guarantees are provided against aggression from the DRC or forces supported by the DRC government. He added that there was evidence that the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda, who are hostile to the government in Kigali, had been reorganised and armed by Kabila and are serving as part of his war machine. Their presence in Congo is a long-term threat to Rwanda’s security, as their mission is to topple the government in Kigali and complete the genocide they began in 1994. “However, if firm guarantees were provided, which addressed all Rwanda’s security concerns, and these guarantees were backed-up by the international community, then Rwanda would withdraw all troops currently deployed in Congo”, the Vice-President said.
The Vice-President stressed that the international community should not be confused into thinking that Rwanda was fighting for the rebels in eastern Congo. “We are fighting for our own security interests which are completely different from the interests of Congolese rebel alliance, though they realise and agree to our response to the security concerns which originate in their country.” He added that this is why Rwanda did not acknowledge involvement in the Congo conflict until October 1998. “Had we acknowledge our presence from the beginning, then the DRC government would have been quick to deflect attention and label this an invasion – which they did anyway rather than an internal rebellion against Kabila.”
The Vice-President added that the security questions posed by Congo were crucial to internal stability of Rwanda, and that any group that threatened this security would be fought. ”Fighting is, however never our first response. As in the case of Congo, we try to talk things out, but we are prepared to do what is necessary to protect ourselves.” The Vice-President added that Rwanda will always keep the door open for a negotiated settlement the conflict.
On the internal situation in Rwanda, Vice-President Kagame expressed satisfaction about the recovery of the economy, reconciliation and resettlement, progress in bringing “genocidaires” to justice and local government elections. He appealed to western governments to continue their support of various government programmes.
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