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This April marks 15 years since the Rwandan genocide, an event that still casts a dark shadow over the region. It was a killing spree that lasted just three months, but that left 800,000 people dead, most ethnic Tutsis, killed by soldiers and civilians from the majority Hutu ethnic community.
It took an army of exiled Tutsi Rwandans, led by Rwanda’s current president Paul Kagame, to stop the killings. That government, still in power 15 years later, has vowed that a Rwandan genocide can never happen again. It’s a policy that has had a deep impact on the whole region, especially on Rwanda’s bigger neighbour, the Democratic Republic of Congo.
Rwanda sent hundreds of its soldiers into eastern Congo on Tuesday in what the neighbours have described as a joint operation against Hutu rebels who have been at the heart of 15 years of conflict. Details are still somewhat sketchy, with Rwanda saying its soldiers are under Congolese command but Kinshasa saying Kigali’s men have come as observers.
Evidence on the ground suggests something more serious. United Nations peacekeepers and diplomats have said up to 2,000 Rwandan soldiers crossed into Congo. A Reuters reporter saw hundreds of heavily armed troops wearing Rwandan flag patches moving into Congo north of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province. The world’s largest U.N. peacekeeping mission is, for now, being kept out of the loop.