Congolese troops and United Nations forces say they are about to launch an offensive against Rwandan fighters operating in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
The UN, however, warned that the fighters of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda, or the FDLR, were keeping their families among them, who could be used as human shields.
The FDLR is the largest rebel group in the eastern DRC with around 1,400 fighters. Some of them are accused of taking part in the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda, before crossing over the border into the DRC.
Al Jazeera’s Malcolm Webb, reporting from an FDLR-held hilltop village in eastern DRC, said the rebels were given a January 2 deadline to surrender, but very few had done so.
Government soldiers told Al Jazeera they were waiting for the orders to go ahead with the offensive against the rebels, but the fight will be difficult because of the steep terrain in the area.
The UN said many FDLR fighters were hidden in the bush, preparing for battle, and that the fighters were using families as human shields.
FDLR spokesperson La Forge Fils Bazeye, however, said the group has laid down their arms and no longer want to fight.
“They tell us we are criminals. Let them point out the criminals among us and we will sideline them,” he said.
“But what about the Rwandan Army’s massacres of our people in Rwanda and Congo? The solution to the Rwandan problem is truth and reconciliation. “
The ethnic Tutsi-dominated Rwandan government said dialogue with the FDLR is out of the question.
“The FDLR is not a political organisation. It’s a bunch of thugs who committed genocide, [and] who have kept civilians and their families hostage,” Rwandan foreign minister Louise Mushikiwabo said.
“That should be very clear, that nobody should even think that there is any kind of political claim that this group can have. ”