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Soldier pay threatens to undo Congo's progress against rebels

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"Payment of the soldiers is still a big concern," admits Lt. Col. Jean Paul Dietrich, a UN military spokesperson.

Yet Congolese soldiers are being expected to take the fight to a well-organized and ruthless FDLR, which has a long-established presence in eastern Congo. Having fled from Rwanda 15 years ago – where some of its fighters took part in the 1994 genocide that claimed the lives of up to 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus – this militia controls significant mineral resources, such as tin and gold mines. For its core of more than 5,000 remaining fighters, there is little incentive to return home.

Losing momentum

Congo's military is losing the momentum built up during the recent Rwandan intervention. Only 105 Hutu militiamen were repatriated in April, according to figures from the UN. In February, when Rwandan troops were dispersing the militia from deep inside Congo, 586 rebels were bused back to Rwanda.

And the FDLR appears to be regaining the upper hand.

"Although the military operations pushed them out of their bases, in a number of places FDLR combatants have returned or remain very close by," says Anneke Van Woudenberg, senior Africa researcher for Human Rights Watch. This includes parts of Walikale territory, which is rich in tin and gold, and Lubero territory, which has over 100 gold mines, according to a Western official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

A new strategy of terror

In Lubero territory, the FDLR appears to be relying on a new strategy – terrorizing the ethnic Nande population, which it had lived largely peacefully with before. 

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