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Rwanda will withdraw more than 3,000 peacekeepers from Sudan if the United Nations publishes a report on war crimes allegedly committed by Kigali in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), an army spokesman said today.
"The Rwanda Defence Force (RDF) has finalised a contingency withdraw plan for its peacekeepers deployed in Sudan in response to a government directive in case the UN publishes its outrageous and damaging report," a statement from spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Jill Rutaremara said.
The UN draft report alleges that Rwandan Tutsi troops and their rebel allies targeted, chased, hacked, shot and burned Hutus in the DR Congo, from 1996 to 1997, after the outbreak of a cross-border Central African war.
"All logistical and personnel resources are in place. The pullout will take the shortest time possible. The withdrawal will apply to the RDF peacekeepers serving under the United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) and the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS)," he said.
UNAMID is a joint UN and African Union peacekeeping mission in Sudan's troubled western region of Darfur which consists of 21,800 uniformed personnel.
UNMIS is a force with 10,000 troops from dozens of countries deployed in 2005 to support the implementation of the 2005 peace deal that ended the two-decade-long north-south civil war in Sudan.
Rwanda has 3,300 troops in UNAMID and a further 256 serving with UNMIS.
Rwanda last week accused the United Nations of trying to deflect attention from its own failures by leaking a draft report accusing Kigali of war crimes in neighbouring DRC.
Rwanda's Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo wrote to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon earlier this month that Kigali would curtail cooperation with UN peacekeeping missions if the report was released.
"We reiterate here what we have already told the high commissioner; namely that attempts to take action on this report -- will force us to withdraw from Rwanda's various commitments to the United Nations, especially in the area of peacekeeping," Ms Mushikiwabo wrote.
The UN report, a copy of which was seen by AFP, says Rwandan Tutsi commanders and their rebel allies carried out systematic attacks on Hutus in the DR Congo from 1996 to 1997 that resembled the 1994 Rwandan genocide. "The systematic and widespread attacks described in this report... reveal a number of damning elements that, if they were proven before a competent court, could be classified as crimes of genocide," stated the probe.
The report is expected to be released in the coming days. Meanwhile, UN chief Ban Ki-moon never asked for claims of "genocide" by Rwandan forces to be removed from the report on violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a UN human rights spokesman said today.
Rejecting media reports of interference by Mr Ban on the final wording of a report on the atrocities committed from 1993 to 2003 in the country, Rupert Colville, spokesman for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, said: "I want to make this crystal clear, this is absolutely untrue.
"Up to this point the Secretary General has never put pressure on the High Commissioner (for Human Rights) to alter the text," he added.
The 600-page UN report was leaked to French newspaper Le Monde, which in an article last Friday quoted unnamed UN sources claiming that Ban had warned Navi Pillay, the UN human rights chief, against using the word "genocide" in reference to Rwandan forces. The newspaper's sources said that Rwanda, one of the biggest contributors of peacekeeping forces in the region, had threatened to withdraw its support to the United Nations if the damning report were to be published or leaked. (AFP)