UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations has threatened to withdraw support for a planned Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) military campaign against Rwandan rebels if the government does not remove two generals accused of human rights abuses by the end of next week, a senior U.N. official said on Wednesday.
The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the world body has told Congolese Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda: “If you keep these guys we’re not going to be in a position to support you ... get these people out.”
He said the United Nations had told Tshibanda late last week that Congo had to deal with the issue within two weeks.
U.N. peacekeepers had been jointly planning an offensive with the Congolese army against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which the U.N. estimates has 1,400 rebels in eastern DRC.
The rebels failed to meet a January deadline to surrender and last week Congolose army chief of staff Didier Etumba announced that the operation would instead be an FARDC-led military offensive with U.N. support.
The FDLR, a group that includes former soldiers and Hutu militiamen responsible for Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, has been at the heart of years of conflict in Central Africa’s Great Lakes region.
Congolese authorities appointed General Bruno Mandevu to head the Congolese army (FARDC) operation against the FDLR and General Fall Sikabwe as commander of the 34th military region, which covers the key area in eastern Congo where the offensive will happen.
The senior U.N. official said the generals were listed by the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Congo as so-called ‘red generals’, who were people “known to us as having been heavily involved in massive violations.”
Under the United Nations human rights due diligence policy, the world body has to ensure that its support to non-U.N. security forces does not contribute to grave human rights violations.
The FARDC and the Congolese government were not immediately available for comment.
The senior U.N. official described the U.N. support for the FARDC operations as “critical”, ranging from millions of pounds of rations and thousands of gallons of fuel to operational support from U.N. combat helicopters, surveillance drones and peacekeeping units.
During a U.N.-backed offensive against the FDLR in 2009, Congolese soldiers were accused by rights groups of massacring hundreds of civilians and committing wide-ranging abuses. The Congolese army denied the scale of the abuses.
An inauguration ceremony was held for Sikabwe in Goma in eastern Congo on Monday.
“The image of the FARDC is poor throughout the world. It is necessary to do everything to change that image. Our first mission as soldiers is to defend territorial integrity,” Sikabwe said at the ceremony.
Additional reporting by Aaron Ross in Kinshasa and Kenny Katombe in Goma; Editing by Grant McCool