DRC Army in new Offensive Against Rwanda Rebels

The army in the Democratic Republic of Congo announced Thursday a fresh offensive against Rwandan ethnic Hutu rebels after weeks of heavy international pressure to act.

But the military operation was being conducted without the assistance of the UN mission in the troubled central African country.

"Today we're launching new operations against the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda)," General Didier Etumba said in Beni, in the north of North Kivu province.

"This is an operation by the FARDC (DRC Armed Forces)," Etumba said, rather than a joint offensive with a special UN brigade deployed in the country.

"This is not a joint FARDC-MONUSCO operation," confirmed razilian General Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, commander of the military force in the UN mission in Congo (MONUSCO).

The Kinshasa government and the international community gave the FDLR rebels an ultimatum to lay down their arms and surrender by January 2 or face attacks and forcible disarmament.

The rebel movement failed to respond.

Congolese President Joseph Kabila has been under strong international pressure to approve plans for a joint offensive by the FARDC and the UN's Force Intervention Brigade, which has an offensive mandate from the Security Council.

The military announcement came on the eve of an African Union summit, where the matter of bringing stability to eastern DRC is on the agenda after decades of unrest.

A multitude of armed groups is active in the mineral-rich eastern provinces.

Older members of the FDLR are held responsible for taking part in the 1994 genocide in neighboring Rwanda, when at least 800,000 people, mainly from the Tutsi minority, were massacred.

The killers fled across the border when a mainly Tutsi rebel front led by Paul Kagame, the current president of Rwanda, seized power after three months and ended the genocide.

Several diplomats and regional experts have expressed doubts about Kinshasa's determination to deal with the FDLR, believed to number between 1,500 and 2,000.

Source: Agence France Presse

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