Rwanda: 200 FDLR Rebels Flee to Uganda
28 January 2009
Kigali — More than two hundred rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) are reported to have fled into neighboring Uganda after being flushed out of Eastern DRC by a joint Rwandan-Congolese military operation.
Sources from MONUC, the UN mission in DR Congo say the FDLR, a group composed mainly of perpetrators of the 1994 Genocide against Tutsis has crossed into Matanda in the western part of Uganda. It was also reported that the rebels could be trying to infiltrate Bwindi National Park on the border with Rwanda.
Speaking from Kampala in a telephone interview last evening, Uganda's army Spokesperson Maj. Felix Kuraije said FDLR rebels 'would be committing suicide to enter Uganda'.
"We have no room for these people. They killed many people and we are very ready to fight them," Maj. Kuraije said.
The army spokesperson said Bwindi National Park was also heavily protected by the army and emphasised that FDLR could not use it again.
By press time, Kuraije had not confirmed the alleged presence of FDLR on Ugandan soil but added that the army was 'on the lookout'.
Over a dozen of FDLR militias have been killed in eastern DR Congo since the operation began last week.
Hundreds, including Congolese militia, have already surrendered. Some were killed in Lubero, a region in the DRC, 370 Kilometres northeast of the regional capital Goma.
The Congolese army this week urged the rebels and other armed groups in the country's eastern region to surrender or face fire.
The on-going Rwanda-DRC military operation to forcefully disarm and repatriate the Interahamwe came about after several high-level bilateral meetings last year.
The FDLR have for the last 15 years been operating in the DRC from where they committed atrocities against Congolese civilians and also continue to hatch their plans of destabilizing Rwanda.
The operation was endorsed December 5, last year, after a two-day meeting between both countries' Foreign Affairs Ministers in Goma and later followed by an almost similar meeting by their Defence counterparts in Gisenyi (Rwanda) to chart its implementation.
Rwanda puts down Nkunda dissent
Security has been tightened at refugee camps in Rwanda after protests calling for rebel Laurent Nkunda's release.
Gen Nkunda, who claimed his fighters were protecting the Tutsi community in the Democratic Republic of Congo, was arrested by Rwanda last week.
A joint force of Rwandan police and soldiers put down the protests mainly by Congolese Tutsis, on Sunday - reportedly using live bullets.
Correspondents says demonstrations against the government are very rare.
A Tutsi like Rwanda's leaders, Gen Nkunda had guarded Rwanda's western flank against attacks from ethnic Hutu Interahamwe militias who fled there after the Rwandan genocide of 1994.
But in a change of policy, he was arrested after being invited by Rwanda to discuss a joint military force from both countries against Hutu forces.
DR Congo has allowed at least 6,000 Rwandan soldiers into its eastern region to help Congolese soldiers disarm the Hutu militia.
Rwanda, which hosts more than 50,000 Congolese refugees, has not yet said whether it will hand over its former ally to DR Congo, where he faces war crimes charges.
'Fighting for peace'
Thousands of Congolese refugees across Rwanda's two main camps - Kiziba in the south, and Gihembe in the north - took to the camps' street on Sunday in a co-ordinated protest.
They called the arrest of General Nkunda "illegal", and expressed their anger at they way he was reportedly trapped and arrested.
But a joint force of Rwanda police and army dispersed the protesters and many were injured in the skirmishes that followed.
"We could not go on with the demonstration as planned as the police and army stopped us," one man in Gihembe camp, which houses about 20,000 refugees, told the BBC.
"What we want is that Nkunda is released so that he goes back to DR Congo to continue fighting against the Interahamwe for he's our only hope for any return to DR Congo," he said.
"Nkunda was fighting for peace and we cannot understand why he was arrested."
In Kiziba camp, refugees claim that the army and police used live bullets and sticks to break up the demonstration.
One woman who was injured in the fracas said they were protesting peacefully when they were surrounded by police.
"They started beating us but we were not deterred by the beatings, for the anger we felt was more than the sticks' pain," she told the BBC's Great Lakes service.
"Shortly afterwards, they were joined by the army and started arresting young men among us. We tried to resist this and this is when they started shooting - that is how I got shot," she said.
The Rwandan authorities have not commented officially about the protests or commented on allegations that they were heavy handed in their attempt to quash them.
A refugee speaking to the BBC on Tuesday from Gihembe says the military have set up tents around the camp and intend to prevent further demonstrations.
Some 250,000 people have fled their homes in DR Congo's North Kivu province since August 2008, when Gen Nkunda began an offensive on the regional capital, Goma.
Human rights group have accused Gen Nkunda's rebel group - and also government forces - of numerous killings, rapes and torture.
Story from BBC NEWS:
Published: 2009/01/27 15:33:00 GMT
NAIROBI, Kenya 26 January 2009 Sapa-AP
RWANDA: CONGO REBEL NOT IN JAIL
A Rwandan army spokesman says Congo's most powerful rebel leader is not imprisoned.
Rwandan troops captured Laurent Nkunda last week in a stunning reversal of alliances. Nkunda has long had close ties to Rwanda.
But Rwandan Maj. Jill Rutaremara said Monday that Nkunda was in Rwanda but "not in jail." He would not elaborate, other than saying Nkunda was "safe."
Rwandan troops captured Nkunda as part of a breakthrough deal that saw at least 4,000 Rwandan soldiers enter Congo to hunt down Hutu militias. The move is a gamble for Congo's President Joseph Kabila because the Rwandans are deeply unpopular and some believe they may provoke more violence.
MIRIKI, DR Congo 26 January 2009 Sapa-AFP
DR CONGO REBEL MAJOR PREFERS DEATH TO 'SLAVERY' IN RWANDA
In a reed hut camp he has called home for 10 years, a Rwandan Hutu rebel major waited defiantly to face government troops determined to drive his militia out of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
"It's better to die here than to return as a slave to Rwanda," said Kafa Bimanos, a military leader with the Democratic Force for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebel movement.
"Let them come! With their devil, their major power. We are ready to react, we are not afraid!" said the baby-faced major, sporting a thin moustache.
His militia set up camp a decade ago in the village of Miriki, which now lies in the line of fire as a joint Congolese-Rwandan military operation makes way for the region's remote valleys.
"We don't want war, we want dialogue," said Bimanos, whose Abcunguzi Combatant Forces (FOCA) is reputed to be FDLR's most radical faction.
Rebels nonchalantly kick about the mud-hut village wearing their characteristic black rubber boots and army fatigues, as AK-47s dangle at their sides.
The rebel major claims his fighters do not want to endanger the lives of villagers, calling them "our close friends", yet in the same breath says bloodshed is inevitable.
"But if Rwandan troops attack us, we will shoot back. We cannot leave without fighting," said Bimanos, clad in a spotless olive green uniform.
"Some of us will die, as well as many innocent Congolese," he said.
Residents of the mud hut village, forced to live alongside the FDLR troops, are visibly worried about lies around the corner.
Thirty kilometres (20 miles) southeast, the joint force has yet to move in on the fief of FDLR rebels, some of whom took refuge in eastern DR Congo after participating in Rwanda's 1994 genocide that killed some 800,000 people, mainly Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
The United Nations estimates that Kigali's Tutsi-dominated
government sent at least 5,000 Rwandan soldiers into Nord-Kivu province last week as part of an offensive that marked a striking turnaround in bilateral relations with Kinshasa.
Kigali had previously been accused of supporting ethnic Tutsi rebel leader Laurent Nkunda's campaign against the Kinshasa government, while the Rwandans in turn accused the Congolese officials of supporting the Hutu rebels.
Bimanos was "not surprised" by the Congolese government's move to join an operation against the FDLR rebels, while he called the Rwandan operation a "pretext".
"They will start with us, but after a few weeks, their cannons will turn towards Kinshasa," said Bimanos, insisting his men would not be vanquished.
"In 2002, the entire Rwandan army was in Congo. They never succeeded in crushing us or repatriating us," he said.
"This time, it will be the same thing."
Bimanos, a former teacher now in his early 30s, said he took part in the "resistance" in his country and decided to take up arms in DR Congo after being "wrongly imprisoned and mistreated".
"Since 1996, the enemy has been attacking us and wants to annihilate us," said Bimanos.
"We are fighting against racial segregation, social inequality, arbitrary arrests," he said, adding that his rebels would not disarm.
"It's not possible. Those (Hutus) who went back to Rwanda are
mistreated," he said.
AMSTERDAM 26 January 2009 Sapa-dpa
DRCONGO MILITIA LEADER'S VICTIMS PARTICIPATE IN ICC TRIAL
The alleged victims of former a Congolese militia leader being tried in the International Criminal Court (ICC) on Monday became the first victims of war crimes to be represented as equal parties in the case, alongside the prosecution and the defence.
A total of 93 victims have been accepted as party to the trial in which Thomas Lubanga Dyilo is charged with recruiting child soldiers in the bloody civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo between 1998 and 2003.
The 48-year-old former head of the Union of Congolese Patriots party opened on Monday became the first war crimes suspect to be brought before the ICC in The Hague, the first permanent international tribunal for war crimes.
Prosecutors accuse Lubanga of developing and operating an entire child soldier infrastructure in the final years of the civil war.
Attorney Paolina Massida, representing the victims of crimes
allegedly committed by Lubanga and his militia, said: "In the past, victims were considered to be simple witnesses."
She referred to the cases heard by international tribunals of
Nuremburg, the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
KINSHASA 26 January 2009 Sapa-AFP
FOUR RWANDAN HUTU REBELS KILLED IN DR CONGO: MILITARY SPOKESMAN
Congolese and Rwandan troops killed four Rwandan Hutu rebels during battles in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a spokesman for the two armies told AFP.
The rebels from the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) died in a failed attempt to take back Kisenga village in the Lubero region of the eastern province of Nord-Kivu, said Congolese Captain Olivier Hamuli.
Their deaths come two days after the joint force said it killed nine Hutu rebels in the first scenes of fighting since the two countries launched controversial joint operations against Rwandan Htu rebels.
However FDLR rebels have denied the claim.
Hamuli added Monday that 394 Mai-Mai militia also travelled to the town of Nyanzale in the Rutshuru region south of Lubero to join the government's Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC).
Some 7,000 displaced people have returned to their home districts of Binza and Joma along the Ugandan border in the last few days.
Hundreds of thousands of Congolese civilians fled their homes after fighting resumed between DR Congo's army and rebel fighters in August.
KINSHASA 26 January 2009 Sapa-AFP
SARKOZY NOT WELCOME HERE, SAY CONGOLESE LAWMAKERS
A group of opposition Congolese lawmakers said they opposed an upcoming trip to Kinshasa by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, according to a statement released Monday.
"The visit of President Nicolas Sarkozy, scheduled for March, in as much as it endangers the fundamental interests of the Congolese people, is not desirable," said the group of senators and deputies in the text received by AFP following a meeting in the capital.
In his New Year's address to diplomats in Paris this month, Sarkozy said a "fresh approach" was needed to resolve the instability and share the wealth in the Great Lakes region, which includes part of Democratic Republic of Congo.
He also touched on "the future of Rwanda."
Sarkozy's remarks triggered an uproar here, with the Congolese media suggesting he wanted a "balkanisation" of DR Congo.
The lawmakers said Sarkozy's desire to see broad-based discussions as to the "sharing of space and the riches of our country is strange," and added in the statement that while Sarkozy had "the right to please Rwanda," that did not give him the right to serve up Congolese wealth "in order to improve diplomatic relations between France and Rwanda."
Paris and Kigali have been at odds for years over who bears
responsibility for Rwanda's 1994 genocide that killed some 800,000 people in a matter of months.
Rwanda: UN Supports Exploratory Home Return of Ex-Fighters From DR Congo
26 January 2009
A programme to allow Rwandans who have been fighting with militias in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to visit their home country and see whether conditions are conducive to returning is a positive way to reduce recurrent violence, the top United Nations envoy in the DRC said today.
The initiative "underlines the will of the two Governments to continue to offer a peaceful option to Rwandais combatants who want it," Alan Doss, Special Representative of Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in the vast African country said.
The two Governments have recently been engaged in an ongoing joint military operation in eastern DRC against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), an armed Hutu group which has been in eastern DRC since the Rwandan genocide in 1994.
According to the UN Mission in the DRC, known as MONUC, six members of an associated armed group called the Rally for Unity and Democracy (RUD) who arrived yesterday in the city of Goma accompanied by five dependants embarked today on a one-week visit in their country of origin.
The visit was planned the week before, when the MONUC team responsible for disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of ex-combatants spoke to a group of some 150 combatants and dependents of the RUD who had voluntarily given up their arms last July, the mission said.
The ex-combatants accepted the offer of the Rwandan Government to send representatives on a visit to investigate conditions for their voluntary return.
The UN mission said that the group crossed the border accompanied by the MONUC DDR team, members of the working group on the follow-up to recent talks in Nairobi on the continuing violence in the eastern DRC, representatives of the international facilitators of those talks and Congolese and Rwandan officials.
The delegation was welcomed at the town of Rubavu, near the Congolese/Rwandan border, by the President of the Rwandan Commission on DDR.
Rwanda: Is Country Justified in Its Decision Not to Negotiate With the Fdlr? Part 1
27 January 2009
Kigali — For nearly fifteen years, Rwanda has been confronted with the existence of a 'rebel group' in the Democratic Republic of Congo [DRC].
Built-up from remnants of forces that took part in the 1994 genocide, the Forces Démocratiques pour la Libération du Rwanda [FDLR], as the group is now known, fled into DRC following their defeat on the battlefield in Rwanda.
On its own accord, Rwanda twice invaded DRC in an attempt to deal with these 'negative forces' that continued to pose a threat to civilian lives, peace and stability within Rwanda and the region at large.
These early military incursions into DRC achieved limited success. Though Rwandan military campaigns significantly reduced FDLR's military ambitions, the group continues to exist and has been operating in Eastern DRC ever since, disregarding domestic and international law alike.
To its credit, FDLR managed to export the genocide ideology into DRC, including through direct and public incitement to attack and exterminate Rwandans and Congolese Tutsi. In the course of fulfilling this agenda, FDLR has had little care for civilians or their property.
For over a decade, the suffering of civilians in Eastern Congo has continued unabated, fuelling resentments among Congolese, generally directed against 'Rwandans', who are blamed by local politicians to be at the root cause of all their troubles.
Earlier this week, news reports, confirmed by both Rwanda and DRC, indicate that several thousands Rwandan troops entered DRC based on a fresh agreement between the two countries to work together militarily to deal with FDLR.
Some may question the wisdom of pursuing the military option in light of earlier experiments. Should Rwanda, instead, negotiate with the FDLR, as a number of -mostly western- analysts have suggested?
Using negotiation theory and concepts as a framework for discussion, I conclude that Rwanda's decision not to negotiate with the FDLR is appropriate. There are indeed limits to the type of conflicts that can be resolved through negotiations.
This analysis makes no claim about comprehensively taking into account the full range of considerations that may have influenced Rwandan policy not to negotiate because it necessarily relies only on facts publicly known.
Nor is the particular outcome of the current military campaign against FDLR relevant for our purpose. Those who wait to see what happens in order to praise or criticize a particular policy decision always have the benefit of hindsight while decision makers do not.
Moreover, performing a cost-benefit analysis of the merits of entering into negotiation is a challenging task; not least because there is always some degree of uncertainty surrounding the estimation of short and long-term costs and benefits of negotiation, as well as the potential costs and benefits of one's best alternative.
It is also worth noting that both negotiations and its alternatives - whether litigation or war - occur in the context of strategic interactions.
The potential outcome of a chosen course depends on the action (or reaction) of the other side. These are issues with which decision-makers and analysts are familiar.
The purpose of this contribution is to sketch out a framework for analysis to illustrate how a decision maker might weigh the costs and benefits of a decision whether to negotiate.
Negotiation theory teaches, among other things, that in deciding whether to negotiate, one should begin by indentifying his own interests. What are the interests of Rwanda?
The paramount interest of Rwanda in this context is to protect Rwandan lives both within its territory and, to the extent possible, abroad.
As Rwanda prepares to commemorate the fifteenth anniversary of the Tutsi genocide that claimed the lives of a million of its own, it is a statement of responsibility for the government to take all necessary measures to ensure that 'never again' translates into tangible results.
Rwanda has additional interests, stemming both from its past, but also its vision for the future, including:
-Keeping the country on a 'peace, unity and reconciliation' track by creating a new sense of 'Rwandaness' (seen, for example, on car stickers in Kigali boasting 'proudly Rwandan'), an identity separate and distinct from the traditional dichotomy along 'ethnic' lines,
-Making a clean cut with former regimes so as to allow the emergence of new ideas and politics, and
-Promoting security and stability in the country and the region, and thus create conditions favourable to 'Doing Business' in Rwanda, attract investments, stimulate economic growth, allow market access and trade in the region, using its strategic location as a competitive advantage.
It is, therefore, true that Rwanda has economic interests in the Congo. Its large population and vast natural resources combined with Rwanda's location makes DRC a prime market for Rwandan products and services.
Rwanda's business community has every reason to seek opportunities in DRC given the relative low cost of sourcing raw materials in a neighbouring country to supply local industry while, at the same time, having access to that market is an incentive for both local and foreign investors.
This is not what has been advocated for sometime in international forums, mostly by the United Nations [UN]. The UN has gone to some length to portray Rwanda as an Occupying Power in Eastern DRC whose sole purpose is to exploit the natural resources of that country, FDLR presence being just a pretext.
Charged with similar allegations, a wealthy country can simply ignore the UN and the governments controlling it, with no significant adverse consequences.
Not so for a poor nation. Rwanda cannot afford to be branded as a 'rogue nation', the validity - or lack thereof - of claims made by the UN notwithstanding.
Rwanda must preserve its image as a stable and peaceful country, with a leadership that is responsible and committed to implementing its development agenda while, at the same time, striving to promote and maintain a peaceful attitude towards its neighbours. That the United States [US] makes no distinction between terrorists and the countries harbouring them is beside the point. Rwanda, of course, is not the US.
While Rwanda is increasingly recognised as a powerful player to reckon with in regional affairs - chiefly as a result of its no-nonsense approach to security, zero-tolerance to corruption and its remarkable economic performance in the span of a decade - the country still relies, perhaps too heavily for its own good, on aid for its various social and economic programmes.
The trade-offs resulting from the politics of aid and their impacts on Rwanda's sovereignty are still a reality of our times.
In this context, to maintain a positive image and still deal with the FDLR issue in DRC call for unconventional measures, the current military campaign involving Rwandan troops under DRC command - despite the obvious misgivings anyone would have to such a proposition - being but one example.
Given these interests, it follows that the immediate goal of Rwanda is to eradicate FDLR and, to the extent possible, ensure -through diplomacy and enforceable agreements- that DRC no longer harbours or supports such groups in the future.
What are the interests of the FDLR, the other protagonist in this equation? In negotiation theory, such inquiry, it is said, must probe beyond stated demands and positions and ask, what is important to the other side? What do they value?
At this stage, FDLR's paramount interest is to survive either as individual members, groups within the group, or FDLR as a whole. Several accounts suggests that the last few years have registered a weakening of the group both in terms of members' moral, equipments and ammunitions, other resources, and support.
These forces have not always been known as FDLR. At different times in the last decade or so, they have presented themselves or have been portrayed under different umbrella: 'Hutu rebels', 'Rwandan Opposition', 'Armée de Liberation du Rwanda' and so forth.
While its members are drawn from several sources, it is accurate to say they include ex-FAR forces - some of whom were involved in the genocide against the Tutsi , Interhamwe militias - who did participate in the killings - and other like-minded individuals recruited over the years, initially from the refugees camps in Congo and Tanzania and, later on, from within Rwanda and in DRC.
Some are Congolese civilians that found themselves co-opted into FDLR operations as a way to survive. Indeed, in the many lawless regions of Eastern Congo, it makes sense to be on the side of those holding the power of the sword, when pillaging and looting the property of those who don't is the order of the day.
Idi Gaparayi is a consultant in legal affairs based in Kigali
Rwanda: Hundreds of Rebels Surrender, Four Killed
27 January 2009
Kigali — As the ongoing Rwanda-DRC joint offensive against the Ex-FAR Interahamwe intensified yesterday, four other rebels were killed, dozens of weapons seized while hundreds more surrendered.
The operation code named Umoja Wetu (Our Unity) was launched last week in an effort to rout the militias responsible for the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi, out of the Eastern DRC.
Capt. Olivier Hamuli, the Congolese army (FARDC) eastern operations Spokesman told The New Times on phone that four rebels were killed early in the day, 35 AK-47 rifles seized and a total of 494 rebels also surrendered to the joint operation in the past two days.
"These four were killed today in the south of Lubero and the joint forces have also taken control of the territory of Masisi which was their (rebels) main base," Capt. Hamuli said.
He explained that this was in the territories of Lubero and Masisi, in Katoyi Sector.
The militias who are grouped under what they call the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) have been living in the central African country since 1994 and are responsible for atrocities against Congolese civilians.
A subsequent press release indicates that the four died when the FDLR tried to forcefully retake Kasinga, a region between Bunyatenge and Fatua locations.
He also revealed that the recent rallying of the rebel National Council for the Defense of the People (CNDP) to government side had caused refugees in neighboring Uganda to return home.
"In two refugee camps in Uganda, when the refugees learnt about CNDP's integration, they left their camps and have now come back home," He said.
Capt. Hamuli put the number of returning Congolese to about 7,000. These have reportedly come from Kihihi and Mutolere refugee camps in Uganda.
In a related development, the United Nation's Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) - MONUC - has also been allowed to participate in the joint military operation. Rwandan Defense Spokesman Maj Jill Rutaremara revealed this Monday afternoon.
According to Maj. Rutaremara, the Joint Operations Centre briefed MONUC about this, in the presence of its Commander Gen. Babacar Gaye on Sunday.
"This allays all their fears and concerns on matters to do with civil affairs," he said, "MONUC has agreed to cooperate - to provide logistics and bring on their own staff to follow up on civil affairs."
"There will be close collaboration whereby their earlier concerns will be put to rest," he said.
The UN peacekeepers had last Thursday demanded to be given a role in the joint military operations, saying they feared for the safety of civilians.
Rebels on alert as Congolese, Rwandan troops close in
AFP - Tuesday, January 27MIRIKI, DR Congo (AFP) - - Rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo's troubled east girded for battle Monday as Rwandan and Congolese troops targeted them in a joint offensive that raised concerns for civilians' safety.
After Rwandan forces' arrest of Congolese ex-general Laurent Nkunda last week raised hopes for peace in the conflict-torn region, Hutu rebels from the FDLR group pledged to fight if attacked by soldiers in the joint operation.
One of the leaders of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels in the village of Miriki said his fighters did not want to endanger villagers, but that bloodshed may be inevitable.
"... If Rwandan troops attack us, we will shoot back. We cannot leave without fighting," said Kafa Bimanos. "Some of us will die, as well as many innocent Congolese."
The joint operation that began last week to target the FDLR includes at least 5,000 Rwandan troops, and the village of Miriki now lies in the line of fire as the soldiers make way for the region's remote valleys.
Villagers said they feared fighting could break out at any moment and cause widespread killings among civilians or force them to flee.
Some also described being completely at the mercy of the FDLR.
"When they arrived, they really disturbed things -- raped women, killed innocents," a teacher in the village said, adding the local population had been treated "like animals."
At least one person feared locals could be used as a kind of "shield" as part of an FDLR bid to discredit their enemies through high numbers of civilians casualties.
According to the Congolese and Rwandan armies, the first fighting linked to the offensive broke out on Friday in the area of Lubero.
The two armies announced Saturday that they had killed nine FDLR rebels, but the rebel group later claimed that no fighting had taken place with their members.
FDLR, enemies of the Kigali government, includes some of the main perpetrators of the 1994 Hutu genocide in Rwanda, which resulted in the slaughter of some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus.
The joint offensive is controversial, with the Rwandan army having twice occupied eastern Congo in the 1990s in its battle against the FDLR.
Its return has sparked alarm among local inhabitants, aid agencies and the UN peacekeeping force MONUC.
On Monday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) warned all sides involved in fighting that they are legally bound to spare civilians, especially children and women.
About 3,000 children are among the ranks of armed groups in Congo, mostly in the restive eastern Kivu provinces, the United Nations estimates.
"Civilians have paid and continue to pay a heavy tribute to the armed conflicts in the region," said Max Hadorn, head of the ICRC delegation in the country.
Many armed groups in the DR Congo's east have essentially operated as proxies of the governments in Kigali and Kinshasa.
However, Nkunda's arrest and the joint offensive have signaled shifting alliances and tighter cooperation between the former rival governments.
Rwanda had previously been suspected of supporting Nkunda's Tutsi rebel movement, which took control of parts of eastern DR Congo last year. Kigali in turn accused Kinshasa of sheltering the FDLR Hutu group.
There were further encouraging signs in the region on Monday, with Mai Mai militia declaring a "definitive halt to hostilities."
Various Mai Mai groups have operated in DR Congo, often allied with the government in its fight against Nkunda.
Their announcement was not unexpected. The main Mai Mai group, Pareco, had declared an end to fighting against Nkunda's rebels on January 17.
Pareco's move came after Nkunda lost the support of top commanders who switched allegiance to the government.