UN drops demand for Congo to replace generals accused of abuses

By Michelle Nichols

By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The United Nations has dropped a demand for two Democratic Republic of Congo generals accused of human rights abuses to be replaced before U.N. peacekeepers can resume cooperation with the Congolese army on operations against a Rwandan rebel group.

Martin Kobler, head of the U.N. mission in Congo, said talks continued with the government on working jointly to tackle the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) rebels in the country's east, but that the two generals still remain in place.

"We do not request the replacement of the generals ... anymore," Kobler said on Tuesday, speaking after he briefed the U.N. Security Council, adding: "There are certain conditions which have to be fulfilled."

"I'm very confident we will have a solution soon," he said, without elaborating on what conditions needed to be met.

U.N. peacekeepers and the Congolese army (FARDC) had jointly planned a campaign to take on Rwanda's FDLR, which includes former soldiers and Hutu militiamen responsible for the Central African country's 1994 genocide, after it failed to meet a January deadline to disarm.

But the U.N. mission (MONUSCO) withdrew its planned support for the anti-FDLR operations in February, which would have ranged from food and transport to surveillance drones and attack helicopters, after Congo appointed two generals to head the offensive who are accused of rights abuses.

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.

Kobler said the Congolese government had complained that it had been unaware which of its army officers were blacklisted under the policy, so the U.N. mission was now notifying them.

Western diplomats say a months-long FARDC campaign against the FDLR has achieved little and revived doubts about the will and capacity of Congo to defeat a group at the heart of decades of conflict in Africa's Great Lakes region.

DR Congo has a different view and has said it has been making progress in an offensive against Rwandan rebels in the country's conflict-torn east.

In March, the Security Council refused to cut the number of peacekeepers in Congo until progress is made in the offensive against the FDLR, snubbing government calls for a decrease.

(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, editing by G Crosse)

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