/ 27 January 2009

DRC, Rwanda armies clash with Hutu militia

The armies of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda, battling together against Rwandan Hutu militia in eastern DRC, clashed with fighters trying to retake a village and killed four of them, a military spokesperson said on Tuesday.

The fighting in Kasinga late on Monday followed about a week after the two Central African countries launched an unprecedented joint military operation to disarm the militias, which have terrorised the region since Rwanda’s 1994 genocide.

Four militiamen were killed in Monday’s violence, joint force spokesperson Captain Olivier Hamuli said. On Saturday, in the first reported fighting by the joint army force, nine Rwandan Hutu militiamen were killed.

Long-time enemies, DRC and Rwanda launched their military operation after years of violence blamed on Hutu militias that sought refuge in DRC after participating in the 1994 Rwandan massacres of more than 500 000 mostly ethnic Tutsi civilians.

Rwanda invaded DRC twice in the 1990s to eradicate the militias, but was accused of plundering its neighbour’s mineral wealth.

It also supported a Tutsi rebellion, launched in 2004 by DRC rebel leader Laurent Nkunda.

But Rwandan troops turned on Nkunda and captured him on Thursday as part of a breakthrough deal that saw at least 4 000 Rwandan soldiers enter the DRC to hunt down the Hutu militias.

The move is a risky gamble for DRC’s President Joseph Kabila because the Rwandans are deeply unpopular and some believe they may provoke more violence. — Sapa-AP