A summit of African leaders slated for Luanda this week to decide on action against Rwandan Hutu rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo who refuse to disarm has been cancelled, Angola said on Tuesday.
“The summit will not be held because the decision to take military action against the FDLR [Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda] has already been made and all that remains now is to implement it,” said Angola’s Minister of International Affairs Joaquim do Espirito Santo.
The meeting was announced earlier this month by South African President and chair of the Southern African Development Community’s security arm, Jacob Zuma, after the FDLR rebels – one of several armed groups ravaging the east of the country – missed a 2 January deadline to turn themselves in.
Several countries in the region have already declared their support for military action against the group, led by the United Nations mission in the DRC, Monusco.
Monusco head Martin Kobler said last week the UN and DRC forces were prepared for a confrontation with the rebels.
On Friday the DRC government spokesperson Lambert Mende said the forced disarmament of the FDLR was now “the only option”.
“It will be done at the right time and in the most appropriate form after considering all the options open to our defense and security forces,” he said.
In place since 1999, Monusco is one of the largest UN missions in the world, with over 25 600 employees – including about 21 200 soldiers, military observers and police officers and nearly 4 000 civilians.
The FDLR is estimated to include between 1 500 and 2 000 ethnic Hutu fighters, some of whom are accused of having participated in the 1994 Rwandan genocide.
Opposed to Rwandan President Paul Kagame’s Tutsi government, they have for years been based across the border in eastern DRC, where they have been accused of staging brutal attacks on civilians, including rapes and murders, and smuggling gold and charcoal.