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In Rwanda, Annan urges ex-fighters to ensure genocide 'never repeated'

In Rwanda, Annan urges ex-fighters to ensure genocide 'never repeated'

Secretary-General Kofi Annan today urged ex-combatants in Rwanda to work together to ensure that genocide was never repeated, as he wrapped up his official visit to that country before flying to Kenya to meet with President Daniel arap Moi.

"In war, all are losers," Mr. Annan told the former soldiers at the Nkumba camp in Ruhengeri, where he was greeted by over 1,200 ex-Interahamwe. The fighters, formerly of the Rwandan Army and militias who were driven into the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) following the 1994 genocide, are being prepared for reintegration into Rwandan society.

A lieutenant in the former Rwandan Army addressed the Secretary-General on behalf of the ex-fighters, acknowledging his army's defeat and expressing the group's surprise by how well they had been treated by the new Government and by the local community, according to a United Nations spokesman. "[The lieutenant] asked for international support as they reintegrate into Rwandan society and encouraged his fellow combatants still in the DRC to return home," he said.

Earlier in his trip, Mr. Annan called the round-up of 3,000 Rwandan rebels in the DRC "a step in the right direction" because it would allow UN observers to determine their identity and work with the Government of Rwanda for their possible repatriation.

"UN observers will be given access to the 3,000 men and, working with our other UN colleagues, make a determination as to who they are, which ones want to come back, and coordinate with the Government for their return," the Secretary-General told the press yesterday in Kigali, where he was on an official visit Monday and Tuesday. "The mood is much more hopeful, but there are still lots and lots of difficult tasks ahead so we should not relax - we need to persevere."

Prior to visiting Rwanda, Mr. Annan was in the DRC from 1 to 3 September. He held a series of meetings with senior government officials, starting with President Joseph Kabila, and also met with parties involved in the Inter-Congolese Dialogue, as well as Sir Ketumile Masire, the Facilitator of that Dialogue.

The Secretary-General also visited Kisangani in the northeastern part of the country, where he was greeted by thousands of people carrying signs and chanting "Demilitarization Now." He was briefed by UN personnel on the ground, who reported the steady expansion of the UN presence in the region to monitor disarmament and demilitarization.

While in Kisangani, Mr. Annan had a working luncheon with Adolphe Onusumba and other leaders of the Rally for Congolese Democracy (RCD). Following that encounter, the UN chief said at a press conference that he had urged the RCD leaders to work together for peace, and for the sovereignty of their territory.

"Compromises are needed," he said. "Peace must be made for the population, for all Congolese. Women and children have suffered a lot." Mr. Annan encouraged the leaders to include women among their representatives to the Inter-Congolese Dialogue.