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Last Updated: Monday, 20 December, 2004, 09:28 GMT
Rwanda withdraws invasion threat
Renegade Congolese soldiers from the RCD
Rwanda denies DR Congo's claims it is backing the renegades
Rwanda has withdrawn its threat to enter the Democratic Republic of Congo to attack Rwandan Hutu fighters there.

Foreign Minister Charles Murigande told the BBC that Kigali had been assured by the international community that it would disarm the rebels in DR Congo.

Twice in the past three weeks, Rwandan President Paul Kagame had threatened to invade, complaining that a five-month-old UN disarmament effort had failed.

Fighting flared last week between pro-Rwandan renegades and DR Congo troops.

Clashes began when government soldiers tried to deploy in an area controlled by troops loyal to ex-rebel group, Congolese Rally for Democracy.

The group, known as RCD, is supposed to be part of the government army. The Congolese government claims the dissident soldiers involved in the fighting are backed by Rwanda, but Rwanda denies involvement.

QUICK GUIDE

"From now on we are no longer going to make any attempt to defend ourselves. We put this problem into the hands of the international community," Mr Murigande told the BBC's Network Africa programme.

On Sunday, government soldiers retreated rapidly when renewed fighting broke out in eastern Congo.

The renegade troops have now advanced some 25km (15 miles) from the previous frontline.

They are consolidating their positions within the town of Kirumba and on the hills surrounding it.

Peace process fears

The commander of the renegade forces, Colonel Smith Kihanga, claimed his men had killed up to 15 government soldiers.

The BBC's Rob Walker in eastern DR Congo says that, behind this advance, the towns of Kanyabayonga, Kayna and Kirumba all lie empty and all have been comprehensively looted.


Tens of thousands of civilians have fled their homes over the past week, but the continued fighting makes it impossible for aid agencies to accurately assess their number or to provide them with assistance.

These latest clashes raise renewed fears about the stability of Congo's peace process.

Renegade troops from the RCD have retained autonomous control over parts of North Kivu province.

The Congolese government claims Rwanda is behind their mutiny and UN peacekeepers confirm the soldiers have received arms and reinforcements from outside the country but without specifying from where.

The Congolese government also claims that Rwanda troops are in eastern DR Congo and if it wanted peace in the east "it should start by pulling its troops out".

Rwanda denies involvement. It has twice invaded in the past saying it wanted to end cross-border attacks from eastern DR Congo launched by remnants of Hutu fighters responsible for the genocide in 1994.




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UN Peacekeepers on the move in war-torn Congo



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