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DRC: Minister questions completeness of Rwandan withdrawal

KINSHASA, 9 Oct 2002 (IRIN) - A senior official of the Democratic Republic of the Congo government has accused the Rwandan army of leaving 2,819 soldiers hidden in Congo to perpetrate massacres.

"It makes no sense to seem to withdraw men and in reality to hide men and arms in the territories that they occupied with a view to massacring the population," Irung Awan, the minister of state for defence, told IRIN on Tuesday.

"Rwanda is trying to create trouble and make MONUC [the United Nations Mission in the DRC] say that the presence of the Rwandan army served to prevent the conflagration of eastern DRC, which could seem like a keg of gunpowder," he charged.

Rwanda declared on 5 October that it had completed its withdrawal from the Congo.
MONUC confirmed this, saying it had counted 20,941 Rwandan troops who had left out of the total 23,760 that the Rwandan military command had provided MONUC. The UN mission also confirmed that the Rwandans had left with their side arms, large quantities of ammunition, machine guns, rocket-launchers, rocket-propelled grenade-launchers, mortars, armoured vehicles and anti-aircraft weapons.

The Rwandan military has explained the shortfall of 2,819 soldiers as being due to leave, training and other assignments at the time of withdrawal. Meanwhile, the Congolese government has asked MONUC to verify the locations of the missing troops. MONUC has said it will continue to monitor the locations of Rwandan forces as well as those of other foreign troops recently withdrawn from the Congo.

"It's a moment to make peace, it's not necessary to attribute intentions to Rwanda," said Amos Namanga Ngongi, the head of MONUC and special representative of the UN Secretary-General to the DRC.