KIGALI, June 2 (Xinhua) — Rwanda has welcomed the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)’s decision to release its soldiers who were captured last month, the government spokesperson said on Thursday.
Rwanda said two of its soldiers, a corporal and a private, were kidnapped while on border patrol and accused the DRC army together with the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels of shelling rockets into its territory which injured civilians. Media reports said Wednesday that President Felix Tshisekedi of DRC had agreed to release the two soldiers, as part of efforts to ease the tensions. Angolan President Joao Lourenco announced the move following his meeting with Tshisekedi.
Yolande Makolo, Rwandan government spokesperson, while appearing on a talk show on local radio Royal FM, maintained that the soldiers were kidnapped while on patrol. “They were soldiers on patrol along our border, they were grabbed by armed elements from probably FDLR and handed over to DRC authorities,” Makolo said. “So we’re very happy that they’ve agreed to release them. We look forward to welcoming them back home. We hope they are unharmed and it’s a good sign,” she said. She, however, added that the move to release the soldiers was not enough as it doesn’t “answer why the shells were launched across the border.”
Makolo urged Rwandans traveling across the border to DRC to be vigilant in the face of growing anti-Rwanda sentiments. “We are not interested in conflicts, we are not interested in crisis, we have had enough of that. We want stability, we want peace for all,” she said. Tensions between the two neighboring countries intensified last month after DRC accused Rwanda of supporting March 23 Movement (M23) rebels in North Kivu in renewed fighting. Rwanda has denied the charge.
Addressing the UN Security Council on Tuesday, Rwanda’s ambassador to the UN Claver Gatete said Rwanda has no interest in destabilizing the DRC and instead accused Congolese forces (FARDC) of allying with the FDLR whose elements are blamed for the 1994 genocide against Tutsi. Gatete castigated the resurgence of anti-Rwanda hate speech in DRC and urged the Council and the international community not to keep silent in view of what happened in Rwanda in 1994.
Since March armed violence has displaced more than 117,000 people in DCR’s Rutshuru and Nyiragongo territories, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Thursday. Lourenco also reportedly held a videoconference with his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame and agreed to a face-to-face summit with Tshisekedi to be convened in the Angolan capital of Luanda, on a date to be announced, according to media reports.