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Rwanda's Kagame rejects as 'absurd' genocide assertions

By the CNN Wire Staff
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Connector of the Day: Paul Kagame
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Rwandan president denies massacre of Hutus in neighboring Dem. Republic of Congo
  • "This is nonsense; it is absurd," Paul Kagame says of U.N. draft report
  • More than 1 million Hutus fled into what was then Zaire after 1994 genocide in Rwanda

London (CNN) -- The president of Rwanda on Thursday denied as "absurd" reports that Tutsis entered the Democratic Republic of Congo over the course of 10 years and massacred Hutu refugees there.

"If it happened, if it ever happened, that would be a problem," President Paul Kagame told Becky Anderson on CNNI's "Connect the World."

"But, as far as I'm concerned -- and as I know, and as many Rwandans know -- that it did not happen," he said.

But a draft U.N. report is the latest to allege that the Rwandan military and an allied rebel group massacred ethnic Hutu in neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo between 1993 and 2003.

More than 1 million Rwandans -- most of them Hutu -- fled west to neighboring Congo after the Rwandan genocide of 1994, in which an estimated 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed by extremist Hutu militia in a wave of ethnic cleansing.

In 1996, Rwanda invaded Congo in pursuit of the genocide orchestrators. Rwanda's stated goal during that time was to end the refugee crisis in eastern Congo. But the U.N. draft report says that the Rwandan military did not discriminate between fugitives and refugees, nor did it discriminate by age or gender.

"The majority of the victims were children, women, elderly people and the sick, who posed no threat to the attacking forces," it says.

"Tens of thousands of Hutu civilians were slaughtered with knives, bludgeoned with hammers and burned alive as the Rwandan army and the Allied Democratic Liberation Forces swept across Congo -- then called Zaire -- leading

to the toppling of dictator Mobutu Sese Seko," the draft report says.

"The numerous attacks against the Hutus in Zaire, who were not part of the refugees, seem to confirm that it was all Hutus, as such," it says.

Although independent researchers have documented crimes against humanity committed by the Rwandan government, the draft report is the most official and forthcoming accusation made so far.

The draft report, which was leaked late last month, was commissioned by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. The United Nations has said the final report will be made public next month.

Kagame has rejected the draft's findings and threatened to pull Rwanda's peacekeeping forces out of Darfur in southern Sudan if the report is published unchanged.

Last week, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon visited Kigali in an attempt to mollify Kagame and keep him from carrying out his threat.

Such accusations against Rwanda are motivated by people attempting to "create an equivalence," Kagame said. "They have been trying to say ... there are two genocides: There is one genocide of Tutsis and there is another genocide of Hutus."

He added, "This is nonsense; this is absurd."

Asked if the United Nations was wrong in its conclusion, he said, "The U.N. has always been wrong on the issue of Rwanda, not only in terms of statements, but in terms of actions they carried out or did not carry out when they were in Rwanda and the genocide took place."

He added, "They should just keep quiet."

But he did not deny that deaths occurred. "Certainly, there are -- there is death when there is war, when there is a conflict."

The bottom line, he said, is that Rwanda is currently at peace, and the conflict is no longer an issue. "We have overcome the past, the tragedy, the different problems," he said. "We are moving on."

Kagame, who recently won a second seven-year term as president, said he will not seek a third term. "This is my last term," he said, vowing to observe constitutional term limits that would bar him from running again.