UN official in Congo says force ready to rout out rebels

AP News
Posted: Jan 11, 2015 11:03 AM

KIGALI, Rwanda (AP) — The United Nations Congo force is militarily prepared to strike against Rwandan rebel positions if given orders to do so by Congo's president, a U.N. official said.

The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or FDLR rebel group, missed a six-month deadline extension to voluntarily disarm by Jan. 2. Martin Kobler, head of the U.N. peacekeeping force in Eastern Congo, MONUSCO, said late Saturday military action may be the only viable option.

"They did not use the time they were given to voluntarily surrender and because of this we reached a conclusion that the time is over. The clock is ticking. The military option is the only option which remains now in order to put an end to negative groups," Kobler said.

A meeting in Luanda, Angola on Jan.15-16 that brings together the South African Development Cooperation and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region to evaluate the peace process in Eastern Congo could delay joint military operations.

On Wednesday, President Joseph Kabila told the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon that his military was ready to rout out the Rwandan rebels.

Aid groups have said they fear that military strikes on the rebels could result in a humanitarian crisis.

Kobler said that an assessment has been done to ensure that the civilian population is not affected by the offensive, adding that past operations against the rebels have proved that civilian harm can be avoided. He said that 2009 operations against rebels known as Umoja Wetu and Kimya II did not present a humanitarian crisis.

The FDLR was formed by extremist Rwandan Hutus who took part in the 1994 genocide and then fled across the border to Eastern Congo. The group has been accused of atrocities and crimes against humanity.