United Nations special forces have “neutralised” rebel groups including a Burundian militia the UN said was recruiting hundreds of fighters in Congo’s troubled South Kivu province, a spokesman said.
The UN mission in Congo, MONUSCO, launched Operation Protection Shield last month with 900 troops, including special forces, aiming to weaken the region’s myriad armed groups partly by cutting off their supply lines.
“The objectives have been achieved,” Lieutenant-Colonel Amadou Gueye told reporters. “Since November 12 there has been not one hostile act,” he said, adding that troops seized arms, arrested rebels and handed over security operations to the national army, Reuters reports.
Cutting supply lines of Burundi’s Hutu FNL rebels across Lake Tanganyika, which borders Burundi, was among several aims of the operation in the area, which is already haunted by Rwandan Hutu FDLR rebels and local Mai Mai militias.
A UN report from a five-member Group of Experts said this week that FNL leader Agathon Rwasa, a former presidential contender who disappeared in June, was in Congo and had made alliances with existing rebel groups and the army to gather new fighters.
“Since Rwasa’s departure from Burundi, FNL has reportedly mobilized an estimated 700 of its most experienced combatants within the Democratic Republic of Congo alone,” said the report, adding that the group was in South Kivu.
Gueye said there were no deaths in the sweep but that the area had been “cleaned” and that the UN would support the continuing army operation to hold the territory.
Rwasa said in June he had gone into hiding after learning the Burundi government wanted to arrest him on charges that he planned to stage a new insurgency, according to a tape recording sent to Reuters.
Lobby group Human Rights Watch said in a report last month that torture, arbitrary arrest and banning of opposition activities was widespread in Burundi as part of a “crackdown” following troubled elections that saw sole candidate President Pierre Nkurunziza re-elected in June.