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02/03/2009 | Congo Parliament Leaders Quit as Rwanda Row Spreads

Reuters Staff

Most of the members of Democratic Republic of Congo's top parliamentary committee have quit in a deepening dispute over the presence of Rwandan forces in the country's violent east, lawmakers said on Friday.

 

National Assembly President Vital Kamerhe has publicly criticised the decision by his former ally President Joseph Kabila to allow thousands of Rwandan troops to enter Congo last month to stamp out Rwandan Hutu rebel groups.

Rwandan troops began returning home on Wednesday after more than a month of operations against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, seen as being at the root of a decade and a half of conflict in Congo's troubled eastern borderlands.

Five members of the seven-strong National Assembly Bureau, which directs the business of the lower house and which Kamerhe also heads up, resigned this week in response to a call to do so from Kabila's Alliance of the Presidential Majority (AMP) coalition, which dominates both houses of parliament.

"We learned that during the parliamentary recess certain declarations were made that do not correspond with the policies of the majority," Olivier Kamitatu, Congo's planning minister and a member of the AMP's executive body, told journalists.

"These declarations could have harmed national cohesion and security," he said.

It was not clear what the constitutional implications of the resignations would be. Newspapers in the capital Kinshasa said there would be little direct impact on parliamentary business until the National Assembly reconvenes in March after a recess.

Kamerhe, a co-founder of Kabila's own PPRD political party and once considered one of the president's staunchest allies, has refused to resign. He could not be reached for comment on Friday.

‘Astonished’ by Move

In an interview given to United Nations-sponsored Radio Okapi soon after Rwandan troops crossed into eastern Congo on Jan. 20, Kamerhe claimed he was "astonished" by the move.

"We are wondering what our population, which is only now getting over past Rwandan aggression, feels about this," he said.

Rwanda twice invaded its much larger Great Lakes neighbour under the pretext of taking on the FDLR, some of whom helped orchestrate Rwanda's 1994 genocide in which 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed.

A 1998 intervention helped spark a five-year war and subsequent humanitarian disaster that has killed an estimated 5.4 million people over the past decade.

Wednesday's Rwandan withdrawal followed intense pressure from critics, some noting that previous Rwandan forays into Congo were marked by abuses and looting of natural resources.

Over half the National Assembly's 500 members signed a petition this month demanding MPs return from recess for a special debate on the joint operation with Rwanda.

Those who signed include a number of AMP lawmakers, indicating new divisions among Kabila's supporters.

Members of the Senate, Congo's upper house of parliament, have launched a similar petition.

The Epoch Times (Estados Unidos)

 


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