United Nations peacekeepers destroyed more Rwandan rebel bases in eastern Congo this week, with Guatemalan special forces and Pakistani commandos torching a headquarters Wednesday after 1,000 gunmen fled into the forests. The on-going operations mark a hardening of the world body's attempt to tackle the 10,000 rebels who remain in Congo despite promises to disarm and return home after over a decade in the bush.
After a decade of operating in the lawless hills and forests of eastern Congo, Rwandan Hutu rebels are increasingly coming under pressure to make good on a promise made earlier this year to disarm and return home.
Guatemalan special forces and Pakistani commandos in the U.N.'s Congo peacekeeping operation destroyed a camp Wednesday after giving the 1,000 rebels based there a deadline to leave.
The rebels had fled into the surrounding forests and there was no exchange of fire but the operation highlights the U.N.'s newly adopted hard-line stance with the Rwandan rebels. Many have been in Congo since they fled Rwanda after taking part in the 1994 genocide.
During Congo's wars, the rebels fought alongside Kinshasa's forces against Rwandan-backed rebels. But after a decade of living off the population and a series of massacres there is mounting pressure on the rebels to fulfill a promise made earlier this year to lay down their guns.
The U.N. does not have a mandate to disarm the rebels by force and the fledgling Congolese army is still unable and, some say, unwilling, to do the job.
But after several years of trying to convince them to return voluntarily, the U.N. has begun forcing the rebels out of their jungle bases to disrupt their logistics and supplies and, in the words of the Pakistani in charge of the operations, make their lives more miserable.
Kigali has twice invaded Congo, saying it had the right to do so in order to prevent another genocide. But many blame Rwanda for fueling a war compounded by conflicts over power and resources.
Congolese villagers who have long born the brunt of the rebels presence in eastern Congo welcomed the U.N. operations. But they, and some analysts, fear that the Rwandan gunmen may step up attacks on civilians in an attempt to put an end to the U.N.'s operations.