Congo: Rebels Change Uniforms, But Not Tactics

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: Democratic Republic of the Congo (formerly Zaire)

May 12, 2007: Since the beginning of the year 113,000, civilians have fled fighting in the Congo's North Kivu province. The province now has over 600,000 refugees (often designated as "displaced persons"). Many of the refugees fled attacks by Congolese Army "mixed brigades." There are five "mixed brigades" operating in the region. The mixed brigades include fighters from former dissident leader Laurent Nkunda's rebel forces. Nkunda's fighters began joining the Congolese Army in January, as part of the post-election peace process. Nkunda's militia forces include many Congolese Tutsis. These "mixed brigades" have been fighting elements of the Hutu-dominated Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR). The "mixed brigades" killed civilians and looted villages when they claimed to be fighting the FDLR. The brigades claimed they were trying to separate the FDLR from supporters in the area. The "integration" of Nkunda's forces into the Congolese Army may be very superficial. Allegedly Nkunda had an alliance with members of the FDLR. He also had rivals in the FDLR and his militiamen "feuded" with those groups. The FDLR includes many Rwandan Hutu militiamen. The new fighting could be a continuation of that militia conflict. As usual, the defenseless civilians are caught in the crossfire.

May 11, 2007: In northeastern Congo, another 223 militiamen belonging to the Front des Nationalistes et Integrationnistes (FNI) surrendered. FNI militiamen began turning in weapons in February.

May 10, 2007: The UN and the Congolese Army have demobilized 150,000 guerrillas and militiamen so far. How many remain? No one is quite sure. Rwanda and the UN both estimate that there are "around 10,000" Rwandan Hutu rebels still operating in the eastern Congo.

May 8, 2007: While Congo opposition leader Jean-Pierre Bemba is in exile in Portugal, members of his former security detail remain in the Congo and in neighboring Republic of Congo-Brazzaville. Protecting the security guardsmen poses something of a problem for UN peacekeepers, who have 165 of Bemba's guard under their protection in Kinshasha. Another 120 fled across the Congo River to Congo-Brazzaville. Bemba's guards could face attacks from Congolese Army units or members of President Joseph Kabila's presidential guard.

 

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