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03 Jul 2004 15:22
Rwanda on Saturday reopened its border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in a bid to ease tension that brought fear of renewed war between the two neighbours and led to the sealing of the frontier.
Commercial trucks, blocked from ferrying goods into the DRC and beyond, streamed across the reopened frontier after daylight on Saturday.
Rwanda had sealed the border with its vast neighbour on June 6 after Congolese officials accused it of backing renegade Congolese troops who seized control of the strategic city of Bukavu days earlier.
Rwanda denied the charges, closed the border and said it would reopen only after the United Nations and the African Union send missions to investigate the allegations. The two bodies have yet to verify the accusations.
President Paul Kagame and the DRC’s President Joseph Kabila held talks in Nigeria on June 25 in a bid to ease tensions.
The two leaders agreed to send a joint mission to look into Rwanda’s allegations that the DRC is massing troops for a cross-border attack and the DRC’s accusations that Rwanda supported renegade army commanders who captured a strategic border city for a week in June.
Rwanda reopened the border following requests from the international community to ease the suffering of people living in the eastern DRC who depend on importing supplies through Rwanda.
“Our borders opened at six this morning and people have started crossing over,” said Protais Mitali, minister of state for regional cooperation.
Tensions between the two countries raised fears of another war, less than two years after they signed a peace deal that ended a five-year conflict.
Rwanda sent troops into the DRC in August 1998 to back Congolese rebels seeking to oust then-president Paul Kagame, accusing him of backing insurgents threatening regional security.
Rwanda withdrew troops from the DRC in November 2002 following a peace deal in which the DRC pledged to hunt down, disarm and send home Rwandan insurgents based in the DRC.
The Rwandan rebels include members of the former army and Interahamwe militiamen who led the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
More than 500 000 minority Tutsis and political moderates from the Hutu majority were killed in the 100-day slaughter orchestrated by the extremist Hutu government then in power.
Rwanda says the DRC hasn’t fulfilled its promise to disarm the Rwandan insurgents.
The DRC’s war split the nation and killed an estimated 3,3-million people, most through famine and disease.—Sapa-AP
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