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In October 1990, the Rwandan Patriotic Front, consisting mainly of Tutsi refugees that had fled to Uganda to escape persecution following independence in 1959, invaded Rwanda from Uganda. The fighting continued until the signing of the 1993 Arusha Peace Accords. Implementation of the Accords was hindered, however, by key elements of the governing regime in Rwanda. The death of President Habyarimana in April 1994 in a plane crash unleashed a campaign of mass killings. More than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed. More than three million Rwandans were displaced, most of whom fled to refugee camps in the DRC.

Dissimulated in the crowd of fleeing refugees were many who were associated with or implicated in the genocide (genocidaires). This group included former members of the Rwandan Armed Forces (ex-FAR) and the Interahamwe (a Hutu militia). Using the refugee camps as staging and recruiting grounds, and allegedly receiving support from DRC President Mobutu, the genocidaires launched attacks into Rwanda. This continued security problem led the Government of Rwanda to support the rebel movement of Laurent-Désiré Kabila to oust Mobutu. The Government of Rwanda then backed the Rassemblement Congolais pour la Démocratie (RCD) to oust Kabila when he failed to live up to his promises to the Rwandans. The Rwandan Patriotic Army then entered the DRC to disarm the genocidaires and to end the support they were allegedly receiving from Kabila. Following the Lusaka Accords in July 1999 and the Pretoria Agreement in July 2002, Rwanda announced its complete withdrawal of troops in October 2002.

Ten years after the Rwandan genocide was militarily brought to an end, the legacy of insecurity left in its wake continues to jeopardize the consolidation of peace in Rwanda and the Great Lakes region. Combatants associated with the defeated ex-FAR and the interahamwe militia, now aligned together as the Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Rwanda (FDLR), continue to operate in the eastern DRC and in Burundi. Recent reports of offensive movements by these groups highlight the continued potential threat and provoked incursions by the Rwanda Defense Force into the DRC and Burundi in late April 2004. This deterioration of the situation in the eastern DRC may pose a significant risk to the consolidation of the peace process between the DRC and Rwanda, as well as within the DRC.


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Photo Credits: First picture on left Guy Tillim. Others by UN/DPI