UN peacekeeping troops are backing a Congolese army drive against jungle-based rebel groups that is expected to displace at least 100,000 people and trigger a new wave of instability and human rights abuses across war-ravaged eastern Congo, aid workers and independent analysts have warned.
The new offensive by 5,400 troops of the Democratic Republic of Congo army (FARDC), largely unreported until now, began in South Kivu province, bordering Rwanda and Burundi, on 15 February and is being extended into North Kivu, bordering Uganda, this month.
The push into remote areas in the west and north of the two provinces is targeting the Rwandan Hutu rebel group the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda), local armed groups known as mai-mai, and remnants of Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army, sources said.
Fears are growing that civilians will be caught up in the offensive, dubbed Operation Perfect Peace, and that the fragile calm of the past year, when the FARDC withdrew many of its regiments for reorganisation and retraining, will be shattered.
"The international community is struggling to keep a lid on eastern Congo," said Anais Lafite, Oxfam’s provincial co-ordinator for South Kivu, based in Bukavu. "They are trying to maintain the status quo for fear that worse might follow … About 100,000 people have already been displaced since last October. It’s estimated the current operation could displace a further 100,000."
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