This winter, the militaries of the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Rwanda — much to our surprise, given their historical antipathy — joined forces in an offensive against a rebel group based in eastern Congo: the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or the FDLR. Led by the architects of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, the FDLR has terrorized Congolese civilians for nearly 15 years. The group’s presence has also served as a pretext for Rwandan intervention that has frequently worsened an already grim humanitarian situation in eastern Congo.
We and many other observers predicted at the time that the joint offensive would lead FDLR rebels to conduct reprisal attacks upon civilians. So, we weren’t surprised to hear that atrocities against civilians have escalated dramatically in recent weeks. In one instance, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Congo, MONUC, reported that the FDLR had massacred more than 60 people in the village of Busurungi. Local officials tell us that the FDLR killed nearly twice that number, after clashes with the notoriously inept Congolese Army.
While human rights groups catalog atrocities and advocacy groups sound the alarm, U.N. officials tell us that the situation in eastern Congo is "tense but under control." The gap between the rosy assessments we frequently hear from MONUC and the grim accounts we hear from Congolese affected by the conflict is outrageous and infuriating. And as the Congolese government launches a new offensive this summer, we think the worst is ahead.
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