President Jakaya Kikwete will not apologise to Rwanda or change his stand that the Rwandan government should negotiate with rebels.
The proposal was made in good faith, Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation minister Bernard Membe told Parliament yesterday.
Mr Membe said there was no way the Head of State could apologise for saying the truth and stating a fact.
He reiterated Tanzania’s position that Rwanda had no option but to get into peace talks with rebels most of whom are fighting President Paul Kagame’s regime from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) forests.
He said fighting the rebels unsuccessfully for 17 years necessitated the need to negotiate with them.
According to Mr Membe, Tanzania sees the presence of such rebels in the DRC forests as a setback in the region’s peace process.
“Rwanda has opposed President Kikwete’s statement but the President will not apologise because his statement was based on facts….Rwanda should take this advice….Our President cannot apologise for saying the truth,” Mr Membe said shortly after Parliament endorsed the ministry’s Sh138.36 billion budget for 2013/14 fiscal year.
During last week’s 50th anniversary of the African Union in Addis Ababa, President Kikwete called on Rwanda to hold talks with Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels because the military option had failed to end the war with them.
Kigali has strongly opposed the proposal, with Rwanda’s Foreign Affairs minister, Ms Louise Mushikiwabo, quoted by Radio France Internationale (RFI) as describing Mr Kikwete’s remarks as “aberrant” and “shocking”.
She told RFI on Monday that Rwanda would not consider negotiating with people who were responsible for the 1994 genocide against the Tutsis.
“Those who think that Rwanda today should sit down at the negotiating table with FDLR simply don’t know what they are talking about,” she said.
She said it was unfortunate that the rebel group had sympathisers in the region, including President Kikwete.
She urged President Kikwete to retract his comments. She told RFI that she did not expect President Kikwete to suggest that Rwanda negotiate with “known terrorists” since he had served as a Foreign Affairs minister and knows the FDLR background.
She added that Mr Kikwete could be just another sympathiser for the group whose ideology is still being fought in Rwanda and worldwide. The chairman of Rwanda’s Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr Gideon Kayinamura, is also on record as having categorically stated that suggesting negotiations with the FDLR militias was a big insult to Rwandans.
Rwandans living in the US have also petitioned President Barack Obama not to listen to such positions and continue with support to Rwanda and the region to bring FDLR criminals to justice.
The US government has already reinstated a $5 million prize on the FDLR rebel leaders, like Sylvestre Mudacumura and labelled the group as a terrorist movement in the region.
But winding up the debate for his ministry’s budget in the National Assembly yesterday, Mr Membe said Mr Kikwete had no ill-intention in the proposal he made during the 21st African Union Summit on May 26.
According to him, it was high time Rwanda considered the fact that peace was made with enemies and that negotiations could only be made with enemies and not friends.
Mr Membe also told the National Assembly that the government would consider taking to DRC eight journalists to cover the country’s peacekeeper forces in the Eastern side of the country.
“Our forces in DRC are doing a wonderful job and have been received with jubilation and we hope they will keep the spirit alive by demonstrating our values and hospitality,” he said.
Mr Membe, however, noted that there was propaganda aimed at mudslinging Tanzanian forces and thus plans were underway to send reporters under army guidance to report their activities.
“We will soon send eight reporters to DRC where they will document activities by our forces which are already there of peace restoration in the eastern part of the country,” he said.