DRC speaker quits over Rwanda comments

The speaker of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Parliament, Vital Kamerhe, resigned under pressure on Wednesday for criticising Rwandan military intervention in the country.

“I ask you to accept my resignation with neither a vote nor a debate,” the veteran politician told a plenary session of the lower house of Parliament, where he was applauded.

Lawmakers from the Alliance of the Presidential Majority (AMP) have pressed Kamerhe to go for his comments in January that the entry of troops from neighbouring Rwanda was very serious and a potential security threat.

Had the speaker, long close to President Joseph Kabila, refused to resign, he would have faced an ouster motion by AMP members, which Communications Minister Lambert Mende said was backed by more than 300 of the 500 members of Parliament.

Kamerhe aroused hostility on January 21, a day after Rwandan soldiers began a joint operation with the Congolese against Rwandan rebels in the east of the country, when he said: “If what I’m told is true, it’s quite simply grave. It raises lots of questions.”

Between 1997 and 2003, Rwanda had supported Congolese rebellions and sent troops into eastern Congo in two successive wars, and Kamerhe expressed concern for a nation only just over “the traumatism of Rwandan domination.”

However, the Rwandan troops who linked up with the Congolese army officially withdrew on February 26, after what both called a successful operation against the FDLR, the Hutu rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda.

The FDLR, though much weakened by the offensive, has begun to retaliate in the long-troubled Nord-Kivu province, where the UN refugee agency on March 20 reported that 30 000 civilians had been displaced by violence within in a fortnight.—Sapa-AFP


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