Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have launched a joint military operation in the latter’s vast eastern region against a Hutu militia linked to the 1994 genocide in the former.
The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) has been a key cause as well as a participant in the flare up of violence in North Kivu since August. The organisation, which
May still have genocidal aspirations, is often cited by Tutsi insurgent leader Laurent Nkunda as a cause of his rebellion.
The UN News Centre says the fighting have seen these groups as well as the national army and other rebel factions such as the Mai Mai fighting each other in shifting alliances despite a peace treaty signed this month a year ago. The fighting has uprooted around 250 000 civilians on top of the 800 000 already displaced by violence in recent years.
United Nations Secretary-General`s Special Representative for the country, Alan Doss, has stressed that the rare joint operation does not involve UN blue helmets,
“The offensive against the FDLR … is a result of an agreement between the Governments of DRC and Rwanda,” he says. Although Rwanda helped put DRC President Joseph Kabila`s father in power, relations soon soured, leading to a costly war between the two states and their respective insurgent and other allies. Since the end of that conflict in 2003, there has been a cold peace between the two neighbours. Rwanda has accused Kabila of supporting the FDLR and Kabila has insisted Rwanda backs Nkunda.
Doss urged the parties to ensure the protection of civilians and to fully adhere to international humanitarian law, adding that the UN Mission in DRC, known by its French acronym MONUC, will uphold its mandate in protecting civilians.
MONUC will also continue to support the Government`s efforts to integrate armed groups into its army, as well as its efforts regarding humanitarian assistance and the political process, Doss said.