February 14, 2015 / 7:08 AM / in 3 years

Congo fails to meet U.N. deadline to remove generals linked to abuses

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo failed to meet a U.N. deadline to remove two generals accused of rights abuses and will now be formally notified that peacekeepers will not support its offensive against Rwandan rebels, a U.N. official said on Saturday.

Under the United Nations human rights due diligence policy, the world body has to ensure its support to non-U.N. security forces does not contribute to grave human rights violations.

The United Nations told Congolese Foreign Minister Raymond Tshibanda during a meeting in Ethiopia at the end of last month that he had two weeks to remove two generals, General Bruno Mandevu and General Fall Sikabwe, who U.N. officials accused of being heavily involved in widespread human rights violations.

The U.N. peacekeeping mission, MONUSCO, “effectively stopped” support to the Congolese army (FARDC) for its planned military campaign against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) on Feb. 6 and will now make that move official.

U.N. Peacekeepers have been providing food, fuel, water and non-lethal equipment. Once the military offensive starts, MONUSCO could also have supported the FARDC with combat helicopters, surveillance drones and peacekeeping units.

“The next step is the dispatch of formal letters to the relevant Congolese authorities concerning the cessation of support to the FARDC in these anti-FDLR operations,” said the U.N. official. “This will be completed by the end of the week.”

“In accordance with U.N. Policy document on Human rights, the DRC authorities will have time from receipt of this formal communication to ensure conformity with the policy,” he said.

The FDLR includes former soldiers and Hutu militiamen responsible for Rwanda’s 1994 genocide and has been at the heart of years of conflict in Central Africa’s Great Lakes region.

U.N. peacekeepers had been jointly planning an offensive with the Congolese army against the FDLR, which the United Nations estimates has 1,400 rebels in eastern Congo.

The rebels failed to meet a January deadline to surrender and then Congolese army chief of staff Didier Etumba announced that the operation against the group would instead be an FARDC-led military offensive with U.N. support.

Congolese authorities appointed Mandevu to head the FARDC operation against the FDLR and Sikabwe as commander of the 34th military region, which covers the key area in eastern Congo where the offensive will happen.

The FARDC and the Congolese government were not immediately available for comment.

Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Ken Wills

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