KINSHASA – Congolese soldiers clashed with Rwandan Hutu rebels being held in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday, wounding at least six, as an agreement to move the rebels from one transit camp to another fell apart.
Congolese troops were moving rebel officers from a camp in Kanyabayonga in North Kivu province, which is run jointly by the country’s United Nation mission and Congo’s army, to a larger camp in the northern city of Kisangani. From there they would be returned to Rwanda, or possibly to a third country.
“There was some unrest and the … soldiers shot in the air,” said Daniel Ruiz, the head of the mission’s North Kivu office. “In principle, there was an agreement. In reality, it turned out differently.” Six people were injured, he said.
It was not immediately clear what provoked the clash. A local activist said the rebels had stockpiled arms in the camp, but his claim could not be confirmed.
A similar transfer on Monday from a camp in Walungu in neighbouring South Kivu province to Kisangani went smoothly, Ruiz said. The governor of North Kivu and an army spokesman both said they did not have enough information to comment.
More than 11,000 rebels from the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Rwanda have been demobilized and returned to Rwanda since 2002. Their number includes remnants of the Hutu militia that took part in the 1994 Rwandan genocide before fleeing across the border.
But repatriations have slowed to a trickle, as remaining fighters say they fear reprisals from the Rwandan government. U.N. officials have raised the possibility of sending them to a third country, but none has been found yet.
In February, Congo’s army launched a campaign against the estimated 1,400 rebels still active, vowing to eradicate them from Congolese soil.