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Eastern DR Congo has been plagued by violence for years
By Samuel Otachi Abuya
Bukavu, DR Congo: The government forces launched on Tuesday an operation against Hutu rebels to east of the country, official and military sources said.
Initially, ministers had vowed to target the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels after they failed to honor a deadline to surrender last month.
“Operations against the FDLR began in South Kivu early this morning and will last as long as these people resist,” a senior officer in the armed forces (FARDC) who sought anonymity told AFP.
Innocent Ndaheba, a local leader, said they heard explosions in Lemera, 30km from Mulenge, both towns in South Kivu. He also confirmed seeing government troops deploying in the area for the last two days.
The Rwandan Hutu rebels have been very active in North and South Kivu provinces since they crossed the border into DRC in 1994. They are accused of playing a major role in the massacre of more than 800,000 people in Rwanda which mainly targeted the Tutsi minority, before a Tutsi-led rebel group seized power.
Gode Mutama, a Mulenge resident told news agencies that they are worried about the “collateral damages” from the attacks.
The DR Congo military is said to have taken the move to “protect the population” from the Hutu rebels.
An army source said the offensive began in Uvira in the South Kivu and that the troops are in operation without any external support, referring to the UN peacekeeping mission. The source also said that Brigadier General Espera Masudi is heading the operation in the Mulenge region.
According to reliable sources, the UN mission in DR Congo withdrew their support in the operation because two generals in the army are accused of human rights abuses.
FDLR is believed to have between 1,500 and 2,000 fighters. The rebels were given until January 2 by the international community to surrender but only 300 fighters turned themselves in. None of the rebel group leaders surrendered.
Most of the leaders are wanted by Rwanda and international justice for crimes against humanity and the role they played in the Rwandan Genocide.