UN chief in Rwanda to discuss threatened peacekeeper pullout over UN Congo genocide report

KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) — U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon met with Rwanda's president Wednesday after he threatened to withdraw thousands of Rwandan peacekeepers if the United Nations publishes a report accusing Rwanda's army of possible genocide in the 1990s.

The joint U.N.-African Union peacekeeping mission in Darfur is commanded by a Rwandan, Lt. Gen. Patrick Nyamvumba, and Rwanda has more than 3,200 troops and 86 police in the nearly 22,000-strong force.

U.N. officials and diplomats have said a Rwandan pullout from Darfur would be a major blow at a time of increasing violence and fresh efforts to end the seven-year conflict.

Ban and President Paul Kagame did not talk to journalists after their meeting, and the U.N. chief went straight to the airport.

Ban said there that he had asked Rwanda and other countries mentioned in the report to send in their comments to the U.N. by the end of September. The release of the report has been delayed until Oct. 1.

"Both the president and I are disappointed that the draft report had been leaked. The United Nations is interested in establishing all the facts relating to DRC (Congo) uncovered by this mapping exercise," Ban told journalists at the airport just before leaving Rwanda without taking questions from journalists.

Ban also said he will discuss the report again with Kagame when the Rwandan leader goes to New York later this month for a global meeting to discuss the world's progress in reducing poverty, disease and illiteracy.

A draft of the U.N. report leaked in late August accuses Rwandan troops and allies tied to Kagame of slaughtering tens of thousands of Hutus in neighboring Congo. The alleged attacks came two years after those troops stopped Rwanda's 1994 genocide, which killed more than 500,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.

In a letter to the U.N., Rwanda's Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo had described the leaked report from the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights as "fatally flawed" and "incredibly irresponsible."

On Wednesday, she was more measured in her comments, saying that Rwanda was happy Ban came to listen to the government's views on the report.

"My government has very simple demands and that is that our concerns and our worries and indeed our revolt concerning the draft report that was leaked to the media a few weeks ago, be heard," Mushikiwabo told journalists at the airport after the U.N. chief had left the country.

Mushikiwabo declined to say whether Rwanda would follow through on its threat to withdraw its troops from U.N. missions in Sudan, saying a final report is yet to be written.

Last week, Rwanda Defense Force spokesman Lt. Col. Jill Rutaremara said the country has finalized a contingency withdrawal plan from Sudan's Darfur region and from southern Sudan if the U.N. publishes the "outrageous and damaging report."

Rwanda has nearly 300 troops and police serving in the more than 13,000-strong U.N. peacekeeping mission in semiautonomous southern Sudan. They are enforcing a 2005 agreement with the government that ended Africa's longest civil war — a key mission ahead of a January referendum on independence for South Sudan.

In addition, Rwanda has small contingents in U.N. peacekeeping missions in Chad, Haiti and Liberia.

The report says the Rwandan troops and their Congolese rebel allies targeted Hutus and killed tens of thousands over months, the majority of whom were women, children, the sick and the elderly who posed no threat. Most were bludgeoned to death with hoes, axes and hammers, it said.

Rwanda invaded Congo in 1996, saying it was going after those who committed the genocide. Many were in refugee camps in Congo, which they used as a base for attacks on Tutsis in Congo and for cross-border raids into Rwanda. Rwandan rebels remain in Congo and have been terrorizing the population ever since.

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Associated Press Writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed to this report.