- Rwandan troops have begun to withdraw from the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo after a month long operation aimed at chasing out the Rwandan Hutu rebels in the DRC’s Kivu forests. Witnesses said hundreds of Rwandan troops have crossed the border checkpoint on their way to Rwanda.
The retreat comes after a ceremony in the eastern North-Kivu capital of Goma between Congolese and Rwandan officials marking the end of the successful operation.
Rwandan Defence Minister Charles Mwando Nsimba said the operation was the illustration of cooperation by former rivals in brining peace to both countries. Rwanda and DRC had fought in 1996-1997 and 1998-2003 over the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a stubborn militia group which threatened stability between the two neighbours.
Officials said peak of the operation was an arrest of renegade Tutsi leader, General Nkunda on Rwanda’s territory on 22 January. Mr Nkunda led the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) and claimed to be protecting Kivu's minority Tutsis against the FDLR.
The officials said the operation which started on 20 January has claimed lives of 153 rebels, eight troops while about 5,000 FDLR fighters were repatriated to Rwanda.
The UN peacekeeping mission in the DRC, has however said the pullout of Rwandan troops could give rebels time to regroup and retaliate against civilians in the volatile northern Kivu province.
The FDRL hibernating in eastern Congo forests, many of whom are accused of participating in Rwanda's 1994 genocide, has been the incessant menace to Rwanda and Congolese governments since the genocide.
More than 250,000 people have been displaced since August 2008, when rebels led by Mr Nkunda resumed fighting with the Congolese army.
Rwanda and Congo have agreed on several occasions to cooperate to tackle the Hutu rebels, but have failed to do so in the past amid widespread accusations that Congolese government forces, who are notoriously ill-disciplined and ineffective, have sided with the FDLR Hutu fighters, according Rwandan official reports.
Some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, before Tutsi rebels led by current President Paul Kagame took control of the country.
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