Rwandan President Paul Kagame threatened to evict thousands of Congolese refugees living in Rwanda if the international community continues to blame his country for the conflict in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Speaking Monday from the capital Kigali after a swearing-in ceremony for Rwanda’s new Senate president, Francois Xavier Kalinda, Kagame said, “We cannot keep being host to refugees for which we are later on held accountable in some way or even abused about — refugees as a result of ethnic cleansing based in another country — and we must be a dumping ground of those people who are being deprived of their rights.”
Kagame switched from the national Kinyarwanda language to English to deliver his message, as he often does when he wants to talk about the international community.
“We are really prepared to be blamed, but we will be blamed for doing what we must do,” Kagame said in an address punctuated by clapping and applause from members of the Rwandan Parliament.
The Congolese government and a recent U.N. report blame Rwanda for supporting the M23 mostly Tutsi rebel movement fighting in the east of the country against the Congo government. Rwanda has consistently denied the accusations, saying it is Congo’s internal issue.
The M23 rebel movement, which claims to fight against persecution of Congolese of Tutsi origin, seems to have fueled even more hatred against them from other ethnic groups in several parts of Congo. For weeks, thousands have been fleeing into Rwanda and Uganda, including hundreds who crossed into Rwanda last week.
“We fled from persecution, they are killing us and our children,” one of the refugees told VOA on arrival Sunday in the Rwandan border town of Rubavu. “I came with nothing, I do not know how I made it here.”
According to the Rwandan Ministry of Emergency Management, at least 60% of Rwanda’s refugee population is Congolese.
Since August last year, some East African Community member countries, including Burundi and Kenya, deployed their forces in the region to help end the conflict. But progress has been slow.
M23 rebels claim to have withdrawn from some areas they had seized from the Congolese government, including Kibumba town and Rumangabo military camp in the east of the country, as a sign of goodwill in the implementation of the Nairobi and Luanda peace process. But the government accuses the rebel force of deploying in new areas. M23 denies the accusation.