Rwanda claims Hutu rebels ‘significantly weakened’

Rwanda’s Hutu rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have been seriously weakened but not eliminated by a month-long joint military operation, Rwanda’s foreign minister said on Wednesday.

Rwandan troops started pulling out of eastern DRC on Wednesday after conducting joint raids with the Congolese army against the rebel Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) since January 20.

“We cannot claim that the problem is solved, but they have been significantly weakened, their power considerably depleted,” Rosemary Museminali told Radio Rwanda.

“If Congolese troops continue the operation, we have no doubt that they will attain the goal” of completely flushing out the Rwandan Hutu rebel group, she added.

Museminali said that the FDLR’s bases had been destroyed and its remaining forces routed.

Kinshasa and Kigali had long been at odds over the presence in eastern DRC of about 6 000 FDLR rebels, among them perpetrators of the 1994 Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi minority.

The two neighbours, who fought deadly wars in 1996 to 1997 and 1998 to 2003, launched a surprise joint operation against the FDLR last month.

Before the operation, “there were parts of the Congolese territory to which even the Congolese didn’t have access. Now these areas are under the control of the Congolese army”, Museminali said. — AFP

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