UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - After the success of the Congolese army and U.N. peacekeepers in defeating M23 rebels, the U.N. Security Council agreed on Wednesday that attention should now turn to tackling other armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, envoys said.
At the top of the list is the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which includes some Hutus who fled neighbouring Rwanda after the 1994 genocide of 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutus, said French U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud.
Millions of people have died from violence, disease and hunger since the 1990s as dozens of rebel groups have fought for control of eastern Congo’s rich deposits of gold, diamonds, copper, cobalt and uranium.
In an unprecedented move, the United Nations deployed earlier this year an Intervention Brigade with a mandate to eliminate armed groups in eastern Congo.
The 3,000-strong brigade was an assertive new step for peacekeeping, which for years has been criticized in the region for inaction and failing to protect civilians.
“The general consensus was that we have to handle the other armed groups, and among which - I guess on the front line if I may say - the FDLR,” Araud said after a briefing of the 15-member Security Council on the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The Tutsi-led M23 rebel group on Tuesday called an end to a 20-month revolt after the army captured its last strongholds. Martin Kobler, head of a nearly 20,000-strong U.N. mission in Congo (MONUSCO), said the focus would now be on the FDLR and Islamist group Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).
“The ADF in many ways are the most scary of the forces because they are the only ones that have an ideology ... the ADF is a Muslim extremist force and there’s talk of links to (Somalia’s) al Shabaab,” said a senior council envoy, speaking on condition of anonymity, before Wednesday’s briefing.
Kobler told the Security Council on Wednesday that U.N. peacekeepers would now reinforce their positions near the Congolese border with Rwanda to stop any flow of weapons and to prevent FDLR fighters crossing into Rwanda.
According to U.N. diplomats at the briefing, Rwandan U.N. Ambassador Eugene Gasana told the council: “Rwanda remains fully prepared to use all necessary means to protect its people and territory.”
Rwanda has repeatedly intervened in Congo, saying it had to hunt down the Hutu militia who fled after the Rwandan genocide. Rwanda and Congo have fought two wars over the past two decades in Congo’s resource-rich east.
Rwanda has accused Congolese troops of collaborating with the FDLR, a charge Kinshasa has denied. While U.N. experts repeatedly accused Rwanda of backing the M23 rebellion, a claim the Rwandan government has fiercely rejected.
Last month, Washington said it would block U.S. military aid to Rwanda because of its “support for the M23, a rebel group which continues to actively recruit and abduct children” and which has posed a threat to the stability of Congo.
A senior U.S. official said on Wednesday that Washington would consider resuming military aid to Rwanda if it found Rwandan support for M23 had ended.
According to U.N. diplomats at the Security Council briefing on Wednesday, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power said: “The wolf at the door, the M23, was threatening civilians, was threatening MONUSCO. We hope that the threat of this wolf at the door is now gone for good.”
Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Eric Beech