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Rumblings of war in heart of Africa

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Indeed, "The whole story of the Congo [conflict] is about the relationship between Congo and Rwanda," says a regional analyst who asked not to be named.

In the saga's latest chapter, earlier this month, two renegade militias in Congo occupied the eastern city of Bukavu for a week. Congo accuses Rwanda of actively backing those militias. Congo responded by chasing the groups out of Bukavu and putting 5,000 to 10,000 troops near the Rwanda border.

Rwanda reacted forcefully. "We shall not sit back and watch these developments, as we have a country and people to defend," said Rwandan Foreign Minister Charles Muligande.

Besides the Rwanda tension, there was apparently a failed coup in Congo's capital, Kinshasa, on June 11. But it may not point to instability. Some figure Kabila orchestrated it to give himself an excuse to reshuffle the cabinet and consolidate power. In fact, some see the "coup" and the eastern troop deployment as pro-active efforts to assert more control over his notoriously ungovernable nation.

"We can't just assume that every time a gun goes off in Africa it's the start of another big war," says the regional analyst, asserting that Kabila's moves may be, at base, domestically motivated, rather than an effort to stir up trouble with Rwanda.

If so, Kabila will have to assert control over the wild eastern region and convince Rwanda that Congo will contain anti-Rwandan rebel fighters, which have been holed up in Congo since the 1994 genocide. Many of them were genocide perpetrators. Rwanda claims they still number about 20,000 and cites their presence as reason for continued involvement in Congo.

Anecdotally, there's evidence of growing Rwandan reinvolvement in the area. Since late last year, increasing numbers of families in Rwanda's capital, Kigali, have talked about being afraid for the safety of their sons, who they say have gone to Congo. In Bukavu, many renegade militia troops wore brand-new uniforms - hints of Rwandan support.

Eastern Congo is also rich in resources, which partly explains many states' involvement in the 1998 war. There's copper, diamonds, coltan - used in cellphones and laptop computers - and methane, among other things.

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