Congo's armed forces are preparing to mount an offensive against community-based militias in the east, known as the Mai Mai. A high-ranking member of Congo's army says disarming the Mai Mai will take precedent over purging a rebellion by dissident General Laurent Nkunda. Noel King has more in this VOA report from Kigali.
Colonel Delphin Kayimbi is the deputy commander of army operations in eastern Congo's war-wracked North Kivu Province.
Kayimbi told VOA that the armed forces are set to mount an offensive against Mai Mai militias, led by Kasereka Kabamba in Bunagana, which sits along Congo's border with Uganda.
"We are preparing to launch an attack to disarm the Mai Mai and all negative forces who are collaborating with the FDLR. In 45 hours, we are going to launch an attack to disarm them," said Kayimbi.
Kayimbi said the Mai Mai are hampering rather than helping Congo's armed forces.
News reports in recent weeks have suggested that Congo's armed forces are accepting help from the Mai Mai and the FDLR, an ethnic Hutu militia group with links to the perpetrators of Rwanda's 1994 genocide.
Congo's unruly, demoralized regular army has had trouble gaining ground against General Nkunda's rebellion.
Colonel Kayimbi dismissed the reports.
"We are not collaborating with the Mai Mai or even with the FDLR. We don't need [to], because we have enough troops to realize the strategic objective," said Kayimbi.
Congolese President Joseph Kabila, announced his intent to purge Nkunda's rebellion, rather than negotiate with the rebel leader, during a visit to North Kivu province last week.
Nkunda broke ranks with the Congolese army in 2004, charging that Congo's administration had failed to protect Congo's Tutsi population from attacks by the Hutu FDLR.
Critics accuse neighboring Rwanda of providing material support to Nkunda.
Colonel Kayimbi told VOA, recent intelligence reports suggest Rwanda is heavily implicated in the current conflict.
"The support of the Rwandese to Nkunda's troops is now a reality. Ammunition is coming from Rwanda, uniforms are coming from Rwanda, food is coming from Rwanda, medication is coming from Rwanda," he said.
A spokesman for Rwanda's armed forces was not available for comment.
Rwanda strongly denies providing any material support to Nkunda, but President Paul Kagame has said the rebel general has legitimate grievances.