• New phase of operations expected
The current three-month operation against Rwandan insurgents in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) which has been dubbed “Operation Amani Leo” is set to end on April 10, according to the campaign’s spokesperson.
The operation that started in January this year, was jointly mounted by the DRC armed forces and the UN Mission in the Congo (MONUC) against militias affiliated to the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).
Maj. Vianney Kazalama, the spokesperson of “Operation Amani Leo” in North Kivu, said in an interview yesterday that the Congolese Defence Minister was in the region visiting troops, to boost morale as well as assess the situation on ground.
“The current phase of operations will actually end on the 10th of this month of April – we are now here (Rutshuru) today with the minister who is visiting the region together with other top military officials, to personally assess the situation,” Kazalama told The New Times on phone.
The Congolese army maintains that the three-month timeline for the operation could be renewed.
This most recent military offensive against the militias followed two separate operations – the first one, the two-month ‘Operation Umoja Wetu,’ jointly conducted by Rwandan and DRC forces in early 2009 and, the joint UN-DRC “Operation Kimia II” that concluded towards the end of last year.
The Congolese army aided by MONUC, have maintained pressure on the rebels and it is reported that rebel attacks on civilians have significantly declined.
In January, military chiefs of Rwanda, the DRC and Burundi met in DRC and agreed to maintain military pressure on the FDLR. A similar high-level military tripartite is scheduled for the north eastern Congolese city of Kisangani, soon.
“Just last week, one of their Colonels defected because of our military pressure! They (FDLR) have no real fighting force left as all they do now, and less often, is come out of the bush and steal food. The FDLR will soon be no more!” noted Kazalama.
Colonel Ngoboka Rashidi, a commander in the Rally for Unity and Democracy (RUD) – a dissident wing of the FDLR group, fled last week and was consequently repatriated to Rwanda along with his family, six armed bodyguards and their dependents.
The FDLR is mixture of the ex-FAR and Interahamwe militia who spearheaded the 1994 Genocide against Tutsis, and have been holed up in neighbouring DRC ever since 1994 from where they continue to commit atrocities – especially killing, looting and raping women.