Rwanda's government urged the U.N. Security Council on Sunday to crack down on leaders of extremist Hutu groups who are living overseas, if it wants this nation to fully support the region's peace efforts, said Rwanda's foreign minister.
The 15-nation council is in Rwanda, on its second stop of a four-nation Africa trip, to see the progress that the central African nation has made along with neighboring Congo to try and end the fighting that has engulfed Africa's Great Lakes region for years.
"We talked to the Security Council about the existence of FDLR supporters," said Foreign Minister Rosemary Museminali, using the French acronym for the group of Rwandan Hutu extremists who fled to eastern Congo when Tutsi rebels ousted them from power following the 1994 genocide.
"There are movers and shakers (of the rebel group) in Europe and the rest of the world. We believe they should be sanctioned, we believe they should be dealt with, if we are to support the peace process in Congo," Museminali told journalists after meeting with the Security Council.
U.S. imposed sanctions in 2006
In October 2006, the U.S. imposed sanctions on seven warlords and businessmen who are accused of fueling instability in Congo's vast lawless east. The sanctions list included Ignace Murwanashyaka, leader of a Rwandan Hutu extremist group based in eastern Congo, the Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda, known by its French acronym FDLR. Murwanashyaka is currently based in Germany.
Rwanda had said its neighbor has failed to act against the rebels. Congo, in turn, had accused Rwanda of supporting Congolese Tutsi rebels fighting back in eastern Congo.
Earlier Sunday, Britain's U.N. ambassador, John Sawers, said relations between Congo and Rwanda have been improving in recent months. This year the two neighbors carried out a joint operation against the Rwandan rebels in eastern Congo.
"We are in a much better situation than we were in six or eight months ago, and what we want to do is to keep that moving forward," said Sawers, who is leading the U.N. Security Council on its eight-day African trip. The envoys began Friday in Ethiopia, where they discussed the conflicts in Somalia and Sudan with African Union diplomats. They also will visit Congo and Liberia.
Olusegun Obasanjo, the U.N.'s mediator for eastern Congo, told The Associated Press that the big shift came when the leaders of Congo and Rwanda began talking and working with each other.
Hotbed of political instability
He said in November that Congolese President Joseph Kabila and his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame would not even talk to each other during a regional summit. But now they do and jointly planned and executed an operation against Rwandan Hutu rebels in eastern Congo.
Africa's Great Lakes region has been a hotbed of political instability and fighting since the 1994 genocide in Rwanda saw more than 500,000 people, most of them from the country's Tutsi minority, slaughtered by a regime of extremists from its Hutu majority.
After Tutsi rebels led by Kagame ended the Rwanda genocide, the extremist Hutus fled into eastern Congo. Rwanda has, together with neighbor Uganda, twice invaded Congo — in 1994 and 1998. During each invasion Rwanda has said it was chasing down the Rwandan militias. The second invasion sparked a five-year, six-nation war in Congo that killed some 3 million people.
In 2006, Congo held its first democratic elections in 40 years that Kabila won, but with his victory came the arduous task of steering the country away from its legacy of conflict, kleptocracy and poverty.