Sun, Jan 11, 2015 - Page 5 News List

Congolese battle plan worries UN agency

Reuters, KINSHASA

Tens of thousands of civilians are likely to be forced to flee their homes during a planned offensive by Congolese and UN forces against Rwandan Hutu rebels entrenched in the eastern regions of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, a UN agency has said.

The UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in planning documents seen by reporters that the planned attacks on the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) would affect hundreds of thousands of people.

The remarks came after the UN Security Council approved the offensive against the FDLR — some of whose members were involved in Rwanda’s 1994 genocide — which failed to meet a deadline to disarm and surrender on Jan. 2.

OCHA said the resulting spillover of violence would quickly overwhelm the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s weak local capacity, forcing international donors to step in. About 1 million people were displaced during the last major offensive against the FDLR in 2009.

Having been at the heart of two decades of violence, an estimated 1,400 Hutu fighters remain entrenched along the nation’s eastern edge, where Kinshasa has little control. The rebels were accused of targeting civilians in response to the 2009 operations.

After defeating M23 rebels — who counted more than 5,000 fighters — in 2013, UN and Congolese troops are under pressure to neutralize remaining insurgents in the mineral-rich region.

Last week, UN and government troops attacked Burundian rebels in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in what UN officials described as a preparatory operation ahead of the broader offensive.

OHCA expects at least 368,000 people in North Kivu Province and 118,000 in South Kivu to be affected by fighting, while rebels fleeing west into Oriental Province could affect 90,000 more civilians.

Operations targeting the FDLR are also complicated by disagreements among the African nations spearheading the UN force, with some nations reluctant to target the FDLR due to frosty relations with Rwanda.

African nations are due to discuss the operations on Thursday and Friday in Angola.

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