Brace yourselves, we’re off to war (any day now)

2015-01-27 16:28

Attacks on rebel forces in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo could start any time now, says international relations minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

She told journalists today ahead of the African Union summit in Addis Ababa that the UN’s Force Intervention Brigade (FIB), of which South African troops form part, could attack the Force for Liberation of Rwanda (FLDR) at any time when they are ready.

“An attack can happen as we are sitting here, you and I, or it can happen tomorrow, or the day after, (it) depends on their state of readiness,” she said.

This comes as the FDLR mostly disregarded a deadline of January 2 for surrender.

“They (the FIB) have identified the sites, which one they will start with first. It is up to them to decide whether they have combed this area and when they move on to the next one. But they are quite confident they are going to be methodical, because we want no come-backs. Our role is to neutralise negative forces,” she said.

Nkoana-Mashabane was adamant that the political decision justifying such attacks had already been made, even as The East African reported that DRC president Joseph Kabila would only sanction attacks on FDLR following a summit of regional bodies.

“The basis for the neutralisation, the mandate for the neutralisation of all negative forces was taken almost a year ago. The operations have been going on. What stalled the operation against the FDLR was when the FDLR raised white flags and said they wanted to literally surrender. So they were given six months to do that,” she said.

When they disregarded the deadline earlier this month, “the military option ... was inevitable. So there is no need for a summit to sit and discuss how they should be dealt with,” she said.

The FIB almost a year ago helped the DRC army defeat the M23 rebels in that country, after which they set their sights on the FDLR.

The FDLR is the remnants of a Hutu rebel group and operates in the east of the DRC.

The DRC is one of the issues set to be high on the African Union summit agenda as well as that of the Peace and Security Council, which is due to meet on Thursday.

The summit is happening this week, with the two-day assembly comprising the heads of African states set to start on Friday.

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