President Kagame threatens to block Congolese refugees from entering Rwanda

President Kagame threatens to block Congolese refugees from entering Rwanda

Rwanda can no longer shoulder the burden of hosting those fleeing the deadly conflict in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwandan President Paul Kagame said this week, threatening to evict thousands of Congolese refugees living in Rwanda if the international community continues to blame his country for the conflict in the DRC’s east.

Stoking already high tensions between the central African neighbors, Kagame said that his country “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.” Persistent fighting in the east of the mineral-rich DRC pits federal troops against rebels from the M23 group, which has captured swaths of territory. The DRC, along with the United States and several European countries, has repeatedly accused Rwanda of backing the Tutsi-led rebels from M23, although Kigali denies the accusations, saying it is Congo’s internal issue.

“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.

A recent UN report blames Rwanda for supporting the M23 mostly Tutsi rebel movement fighting in the east of the country against the Congo government. 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 the DRC. For weeks, thousands have been fleeing into Rwanda and Uganda, including hundreds who crossed into Rwanda last week. In November last year, the UN said about 72,000 Congolese refugees had crossed into Rwanda. According to the Rwandan Ministry of Emergency Management, at least 60% of Rwanda’s refugee population is Congolese.

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