Congo: Rwanda To The Rescue

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: Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)

January 29, 2009: The UN will provide logistical support to Congolese and Rwandan troops who are attacking the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) Rwandan Hutu militia in eastern Congo. UN (MONUC) peacekeepers would not participate in “direct operations” (ie, combat operations) with the Congolese Army or Rwandan Army. MONUC peacekeepers will assist CNDP fighters who wish to join the Congolese Army (“integration” of CNDP militiamen is the term). Up to 6000 CNDP fighters may eventually join the Congolese Army. That would mean all of General Laurent Nkunda’s CNDP forces would join the Congolese Army.

Congo’s and Rwanda’s “joint operation” against the FDLR continues. It appears that Rwanda has added some reinforcements, with perhaps 5000 Rwandan soldiers are in the Congo. The Rwandan Army (Rwandan Patriotic Defense Force) units operating in Congo are experienced and motivated and the FDLR is filled with “old enemies” – its leadership cadre includes men who helped perpetrate the 1994 Tutsi genocide in Rwanda. The Congolese Army, however, is a hodge podge, and most of its units are completely incompetent. If the FDLR can avoid the Rwandan force it will likely survive. Congo has demanded that Rwanda send General Laurent Nkunda to Con go for trial. However, Nkunda remains “detained” in Rwanda (likely in Kigali).

January 26, 2009: FDLR forces are reportedly preparing to fight the Congolese Army and Rwandan Army FDLR spokesmen are concentrating their rhetorical fire on Rwanda, though their statements also mentions the high probability of Congolese civilian casualties. This looks a bit like an attempt to leverage Hezbollah and Hamas-style “human shield” tactics. The FDLR will try to keep Congolese civilians between their militiamen and the Rwandan Army, and blame the Rwandan Army for any civilian casualties.

January 24, 2009: Congolese and Rwandan forces claimed they killed nine FDLR fighters. Congo’s commander of “eastern operations” said that contact had been made with the FDLR “in five villages.” The FDLR denied the claim and said that no FDLR units had engaged either Congolese or Rwandan forces.

The Congolese government said that the Rwandan government “has failed” to extradite General Laurent Nkunda to Congo. Nkunda’s arrest by Rwanda is clearly part of the political dealing that led to the joint Congo-Rwanda operation against the FDLR.

January 22, 2009: Rwanda and Congo claimed that Rwandan forces have arrested General Laurent Nkunda. The Congo has had a warrant for Nkunda’s arrest since 2005. This represents a huge shift by the Rwandan government, since Nkunda has long been regarded as a Rwandan ally.

The UN reported that the Rwandan Army force operating in Congo’s North Kivu province Congo has 4000 soldiers. A “large” Rwandan force is moving west to the towns of Masisi and Mushaki. The force is a light infantry force. UN observers reported the Rwandan soldiers were armed with automatic rifles and rocket-propelled grenade launchers.

January 21, 2009: UN sources reported that a battalion of Rwandan troops is heading toward the CNDP headquarters in Rutshuru

January 20, 2009: In a surprise move, Rwandan Army soldiers have crossed the Congo-Rwanda border. Initial reports said the Rwandan force had at least 3000 Rwandan soldiers. The Rwandan Army will conduct a “joint operation” with the Congolese Army to destroy the FDLR militia. The Congo-Rwanda agreement comes in the wake of a “stand down’ by rebels in the pro-Rwandan CNDP.

January 17, 2009: Villagers in northeast Congo have begun organizing self-defense groups to defend their villages against the Ugandan rebel Lords Resistance Army. Civilians in northeastern Congo reported that the Congolese Army “ran away” when LRA guerillas attacked in December.

A major Mai-Mai militia force in eastern Congo, Pareco, said that it would quit fighting against the CNDP.

January 16, 2009: Members of the Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP) loyal to Brigadier General Bosco Ntganda issued a statement that said “hostilities” between the CNDP and the Congolese Army (FARDC) had ceased. Additionally, the rebel CNDP leaderships intended to place “all CNDP combat forces” under Congolese Army command. The rebel CNDP leaders want to make their units part of the Congo’s national army.

 

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