In a long awaited move, the Congo army (FARDC) has launched several major strikes against former Rwandan Hutu rebels (FDLR). The army has claimed that the FDLR rebels have been pushed out of Virunga National Park as well as all known strongholds closer to the Burundi border. It appears that the rebels suffered loses but most likely vanished into the jungle to avoid direct confrontation, so a major question remains where did they go.

The hope is that this action will also reduce poaching in the park, famous for gorillas and also designated a UNESCO world heritage site.

The Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) includes former soldiers and Hutu militiamen responsible for Rwanda’s 1994 genocide and have been at the centre of nearly two decades of violence in eastern Congo which spilled over from the Rwandan genocide. Some reports indicate that the bulk of FDLR rebels have now concentrated in North Kivu after moving up from South Kivu.

A spokesman for Congo’s United Nations peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO, was not immediately aware of the combat operation near Burundi, which is an interesting situation. The FARDC is carrying out the operation alone after rejecting support from MONUSCO. This follows a row over two FARDC generals whom the United Nations suspects of human rights abuses. FARDC co-operation with the UN mission, or lack thereof, is an ongoing situation which undoubtedly hampers efforts to find and destroy remaining rebels groups.