Get more Mail & Guardian
Subscribe or Login

UN to help DRC disarm dissidents by force

United Nations peacekeepers will help the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) army disarm eastern dissident groups by force in violence-plagued North Kivu province, UN and Congolese commanders said.

Army soldiers and fighters loyal to renegade Tutsi general Laurent Nkunda clashed again on Thursday a few kilometres from Rutshuru, where the dissidents attacked an army base a day earlier and forced thousands of civilians to flee.

”Now that all peaceful means have been explored with no result … we will enter into a phase where there is no other solution than to constrain them to [reintegrate] without delay or conditions,” General Babacar Gaye, military chief of the UN peace mission Monuc, said in comments broadcast on Thursday on UN radio.

The army has battled Nkunda since he abandoned a peace deal in August, raiding government positions and forcing tens of thousands of civilians to flee.

Under diplomatic pressure to find a peaceful solution to the North Kivu crisis, President Joseph Kabila delayed a planned military offensive against Nkunda last month but ordered the rebels to disband and reintegrate the national army.

However, only a few hundred fighters have so far deserted Nkunda’s ranks, believed to total about 4 000, and Congolese army chief of staff General Dieudonne Kayembe said the time had come to launch operations against the rebels.

”I have come here precisely in order to establish plans for constraint, for the use of force. We will carry out this work of conceiving, of planning, with Monuc,” he said.

The operations would also target local Mai Mai militia, and Hutu-dominated Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels also present in North Kivu, Gaye and Kayembe said.

Monuc’s 17 000-strong force has a mandate to operate with the army to re-establish security and protect civilians, but UN sources said for the time being it would limit its role to planning and logistical support for Congolese operations.

Civilians under fire

More than 370 000 civilians have fled fighting in the area this year.

Monuc denounced Wednesday’s assault on an army base in Rutshuru, 50km north of the provincial capital, Goma, as a war crime, and said Nkunda’s forces deliberately employed heavy weapons in a populated area.

UN soldiers and attack helicopters were readied to prevent the town falling to rebels and Nkunda’s fighters later withdrew.

A spokesperson for Nkunda said the raid was a counter-offensive after an army attack on rebel positions.

Last week Nkunda’s men targeted a military installation near a group of refugee camps just 10km outside Goma, forcing as many as 30 000 displaced to flee once again.

Nkunda has led a rebellion since 2004 and says he is defending the interests of his Tutsi ethnic group in eastern DRC. He accuses the army of siding with the Tutsis’ FDLR foes.

Kabila, who has vowed to end conflict in the east that has continued since the country’s 1998 to 2003 war, denies supporting the FDLR.

His government agreed with Rwanda this month to disarm Hutu rebels, who include perpetrators of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide that killed an estimated 800 000 Rwandan Tutsis and moderate Hutus. — Reuters

Subscribe for R500/year

Thanks for enjoying the Mail & Guardian, we’re proud of our 36 year history, throughout which we have delivered to readers the most important, unbiased stories in South Africa. Good journalism costs, though, and right from our very first edition we’ve relied on reader subscriptions to protect our independence.

Digital subscribers get access to all of our award-winning journalism, including premium features, as well as exclusive events, newsletters, webinars and the cryptic crossword. Click here to find out how to join them and get a 57% discount in your first year.

Related stories


If you’re reading this, you clearly have great taste

If you haven’t already, you can subscribe to the Mail & Guardian for less than the cost of a cup of coffee a week, and get more great reads.

Already a subscriber? Sign in here


Subscribers only

DA’s egregious sexual harassment case finally begins

The party is accused of protecting a councillor, who’s also implicated in R1.2m graft

The ANC, DA and EFF ‘oblivious’ to climate crisis —...

The Climate Justice Charter Movement has critiqued the manifestos of the main parties contesting the local government elections and found them ‘shallow’

More top stories

Countries bear cross-border responsibility for harmful effects of climate change,...

The UN committee has been accused of ‘turning its back’ on the children who filed a groundbreaking legal complaint with it against five countries

Magashule files notice to have corruption charges dropped

Counsel for the suspended ANC secretary general tells court the former Free State premier falls outside category of who can be charged for corrupt activities

R1.5-billion in funding approved for riot-hit businesses

Agencies emphasise that speed is crucial to rescuing firms affected by July’s unrest

DA’s egregious sexual harassment case finally begins

The party is accused of protecting a councillor, who’s also implicated in R1.2m graft

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…