Congo closes its border to cut rebel supply lines

September 1, 2008

KINSHASA (AP) -- Congo sealed its border with Uganda on Saturday to cut off a rebel group's supply line, government officials said.

Although rebel leader Laurent Nkunda signed a peace deal with the government in January, fighting in the east of the country continues. On Thursday, Nkunda's rebels and army soldiers exchanged machinegun and mortar fire in one of their fiercest battles this year.
""The government has closed this border in order to cut off the rebellion of Laurent Nkunda from its supply source,"" said Foreign Ministry Spokesman Claude Kamanga Mutond. ""We want to stop Nkunda from being able to supply himself to continue this war.""
Nkunda, an ethnic Tutsi, claims he took up arms to protect Tutsi villagers from Hutu extremists who invaded eastern Congo from neighboring Rwanda at the end of that country's 1994 genocide. The Hutus, who led the genocide of more than half a million Tutsis in Rwanda, were eventually pushed over the border into Congo.
But Congo also has a Tutsi minority and the authors of the Rwandan genocide are accused of orchestrating attacks against Tutsi villagers here, as well.
Although Nkunda's men say their goal is to protect the Tutsi minority, they are accused of atrocities, including razing villages, summary executions and systematic rapes. Nkunda is believed to have close ties with the current Tutsi leadership of Rwanda as well as the government of Uganda.
Congo cut off diplomatic relations with both Rwanda and Uganda over their alleged support of Nkunda's rebellion, but normalized its relations with its two neighbors at the signing of an accord in Tanzania last year. According to Mutond, Ugandan officials have been contacted and told of the border closure.
He said the representative of the Ugandan government in Congo has promised the full cooperation of his country in keeping the border sealed.