UN Peacekeepers Begin to Fight Rwandan Rebels in Eastern CongoMichael J. Kavanagh
United Nations and Congolese troops will maintain their two-day-old offensive against Rwandan rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo until they surrender, UN force commander General Carlos dos Santos Cruz said.
The army and UN started operations against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR, a mainly ethnic Hutu group that opposes the government in neighboring Rwanda. The authorities in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, accuse leaders of the insurgents of participating in the 1994 genocide that killed an estimated 800,000 people in that country.
“It is very important they have the opportunity to surrender,” dos Santos Cruz said via videoconference from Goma, the capital of North Kivu province. “The operations will continue to the end.”
The offensive against the FDLR started a month after the surrender of another rebel group in Congo with links to Rwanda, the ethnic Tutsi-led M23. One of the M23’s demands was the eradication of the FDLR. Congo accuses Rwanda of supporting the M23, which Rwanda denies.
The army and a UN intervention brigade are clearing the trade route between Kitchanga and Pinga and will expand their fight from there, eventually moving to South Kivu province, dos Santos Cruz said.
“For almost two years the population was almost isolated because of the presence of FDLR along the roads,” he said. UN forces are also patrolling Congo’s eastern border regions with Uganda and Rwanda, he said.
“It’s very important not to let the groups create problems for the neighbors,” dos Santos Cruz said.
Eastern Congo is rich in tin ore, gold, and tantalum, a mineral used in electronics. Pinga sits on the border of North Kivu’s Walikale territory, which is home to Congo’s largest tin ore mine, Bisie. Bisie is currently under exploration by Toronto-listed Alphamin Resources Corp.