Rwanda to forge closer ties with Congo

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Rwanda will enhance ties with its neighbour and long-time foe DRC, after successful collaboration in a military campaign against Rwandan rebels early this year, the government said.
In a sign of improving relations between the former foes, Congo this week appointed an envoy to Kigali for the first time since 1998, Rosemary Museminali, Rwandan minister for foreign affairs and cooperation, told Reuters yesterday.
“It means that our issues whether diplomatic, political or economic are going to be permanently represented and can be discussed at any time we want, it is not symbolic, we think it is fundamental,” she said by telephone.
Diplomatic ties were severed in 1998 after Rwanda invaded Congo in search of Hutu rebels who it said had started the 1994 genocide that killed 800 000 people.
Congo named Norbert Nkulu Kilombo Mitumba as its ambassador to Kigali this week, two months after Rwanda named Amandin Rugira as its envoy to Kinshasa.
Museminali said the countries’ presidents had decided to look beyond what had divided them in the past.
“There has been a lot of work that has been done between our two countries in the past six or seven month, we intend to really scale it up,” she said.
Rwanda strongly denies accusations by the UN that it has been backing an ethnic Tutsi militia in eastern Congo.
Fighting between rival militias in late 2008 forced some 250 000 people to flee their homes.
Earlier this year, the two armies worked together to attack military bases of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), an ethnic Hutu rebel group whose leaders fled into Congo after the genocide in Rwanda.
“The joint military operation was very crucial because once we realised that we have a common enemy, I think that was the departure point for cooperating in other sectors,” Museminali said.
Numerous UN reports have blamed the FDLR, along with other militia groups, for instability in Congo’s lawless east over the past 15 years.
“We are cooperating on energy extraction and production, we think we can cooperate on agriculture, we can cooperate on financial services,” Museminali said.
The two central African nations have agreed a joint power project to produce 200 megawatts of electricity from methane gas reservoirs in Lake Kivu on their shared border.
“We are looking at many other areas like trade and business together, so when I say a joint comprehensive programme of cooperation, I am also seeking to improve the stability of our region.”