Will Rwandan troops help in Congo?
More than 2,000 Rwandan troops entered Congo Tuesday to help hunt down Hutu rebels who are blamed for the 1994 genocide of about 800,000 Rwandan Tutsis.
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The mineral wealth of North and South Kivu, where small artisanal mines have provided enormous wealth for local warlords, including the FDLR, also gives the Rwandans an incentive to extend their stay in Congo, no matter their promises of a 15-day operation.Skip to next paragraph
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"When you consider the natural resources in this territory," says Mr. Lacaille, "it is difficult to withdraw without guarantees that one will continue to benefit from those resources."
In Congo's capital, Kinshasa, Communications Minister Laurent Mende announced the joint operation between Rwanda and Congo on Tuesday, saying, "We have extended an invitation to the Rwandan Army," which has a "mandate" to hunt the FDLR.
Left out of decisionmaking on this joint operation is the 17,000-man United Nations peacekeeping force called MONUC.
With some 6,000 troops in the Kivu provinces and a recently strengthened mandate from the UN Security Council to protect civilian populations, even against actions by the Congolese Army, MONUC has been put into a difficult position.
Should it intervene to halt military operations by the host government?
Or should it cooperate with the operation, even if it means working hand inhand with a top commander of the local Congolese Tutsi CNDP militia, Bosco Ntaganda, who has been indicted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.
General Ntaganda has apparently recently ousted Gen. Laurent Nkunda as leader of the CNDP, after a falling out over Ntaganda's massacre of civilians in December in the Congolese village of Kiwanja.
"This man is wanted by the ICC," says Van Woudenberg. "Congo is under obligation to arrest Ntaganda, not cooperate with him."
A complex situation
But UN humanitarian officers say that the situation in the Kivus is much more complex than that.
Atrocities have been committed even by members of the Congolese Army, including looting and raping of civilians by Congolese soldiers during their disorganized retreat last November, ahead of a massive assault on Goma by General Nkunda's forces.
Talks in Nairobi between Nkunda's CNDP and the Congolese government were thought to be the one chance to resolve these disputes peacefully, without further casualties, but those have now been cast into deep question.
Sponsored by a group of nations from Africa's Great Lakes region, and led by former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, the talks are due to reconvene on Jan. 25. But will the CNDP team represent Nkunda, or will they be speaking for the self-proclaimed new CNDP leader, and accused war criminal, Gen. Ntaganda?
Referring to Ntaganda, a UN official in Nairobi admits, "This man is a murderer," but adds, "We humanitarians will talk with anyone, and whatever we can do to alleviate the suffering of people, we will do it."