DR of Congo: peacekeepers help army against rebels
In the second military operation this week of its kind, some 300 United Nations peacekeepers, backed by helicopter gunships, are helping the army of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) dislodge militia said to have been looting and enslaving locals in the eastern region of the vast country.
The UN Mission in the DRC (MONUC) reported today that Congolese troops have been fighting for the past six days to dislodge the militia members from the town of Tchei, some 60 kilometres south-east of the Ituri region's main town, Bunia. The blue helmets involved come from MONUC's Pakistani, Bangladeshi and Moroccan contingents.
On Monday, the mission announced that another 300 'blue helmets,' also backed by combat helicopters, were helping the army further south to drive out rebels from neighbouring Rwanda, where they have been operating for the past 10 years in the heavily forested area north of Bukavu, the main city of the South Kivu region.
"MONUC is intervening to bring security to the region and assure the protection of the civilian population," the mission said in a statement on that operation against Hutu rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR).
The Hutus moved across the border in the aftermath of the 1994 Rwandan genocide of Tutsis and moderate Hutus by extremist Hutus, in which 800,000 people are estimated to have died.
The operations were the latest in recent months in which MONUC has played a more active role in seeking to bring stability to the eastern DRC as the country prepares to hold national elections in June to cement its transition from a six-year civil war that cost 4 million lives through fighting and the attendant humanitarian catastrophe - the most lethal conflict in the world since World War II.