(NSI News Source Info) KINSHASA, Congo - January 27, 2009: Rwandan and Congolese troops pushed deeper into zones in Congo held by Rwandan Hutu militiamen Sunday in a joint military operation designed to crush armed groups that have destabilized central Africa, a military spokesman said.A government soldier holds her weapon at Mushake in eastern Congo, January 26, 2009. Congolese Hutu rebels said on Sunday they had clashed for the first time with a Rwandan-Congolese force deployed to crush them and civilians expressed fears they would be caught up in the violence.
Rwanda and Congo have been enemies for years, but the two neighbors suddenly changed tactics and began cooperating last week to disarm groups each nation had previously backed as proxies.
Eastern Congo has been wracked by violence since Rwanda’s 1994 genocide spilled war across the border. Hutu militias that participated in the massacres of more than 500,000 mostly ethnic Tutsi civilians sought refuge in Congo.
Rwanda invaded Congo twice in the 1990s to eradicate the militias, though it was accused of plundering the neighboring country’s vast mineral wealth instead. The militia’s presence in Congo also gave birth in 2004 to a Tutsi rebellion led by Laurent Nkunda, who was allied to Rwanda.
But Rwandan troops turned on Nkunda and captured him Thursday as part of a breakthrough deal that saw at least 4,000 Rwandan soldiers enter Congo to hunt down the Hutu militias. The move is a risky gamble for Congo’s President Joseph Kabila because the Rwandans are deeply unpopular and some believe they may provoke more violence.