DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (AP) — Tanzania's president warned armed groups operating in eastern Congo to disarm or risk being hunted down by Congolese and U.N. forces in an interview with The Associated Press.
Tanzania has contributed troops to a special U.N. intervention brigade that has a mandate to pursue armed groups in Congo's east, where several rebel groups vie for control of the mineral-rich area. The area lies at the intersection of several countries, including Uganda and Rwanda, and some rebel groups there are thought to act as proxies for these states.
"The best solution for these (armed) groups is to cooperate by laying down their arms," President Jakaya Kikwete said. "If they don't do it, they will be tracked down."
Kikwete hailed the intervention force's success in defeating the M23 rebels, one of the main armed groups in the area.
But that defeat and Tanzania's participation in the force have irritated neighboring Rwanda, which has been accused of backing the M23 rebels to serve as a buffer against another armed group, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, known by its French acronym, FDLR.
Rwanda accuses members of the FDLR of taking part in its 1994 genocide in which more than 1 million people were killed. It has rebuked Tanzania for suggesting that the Rwandan government should negotiate with the rebels. In recent months, the Rwandan press, some of it government-controlled, has also accused Tanzania of holding secret meetings with dissidents opposed to the Rwandan government.
Kikwete denied there was any significant dispute with Rwanda.
"I think people made a bit too much of this," he said. "I don't think our relations with Rwanda have reached a level that should worry anyone."
The Rwandan genocide and the continuing conflict in eastern Congo sent refugees fleeing to several countries in the region. Kikwete said border areas of Tanzania were inundated, and accused refugees of bringing arms with them, creating insecurity.