African Union urges Congo to let UN forces help assault on rebels

By Aaron Maasho ADDIS ABABA (Reuters) - The African Union on Monday urged the Congolese government to accept help from U.N. forces to defeat rebels in the country's east, after a row over human rights derailed plans for joint operations. Peacekeepers in the U.N.'s Congo mission, known as MONUSCO, had been due to support an operation against the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) but suspended cooperation this month because two Congolese generals due to lead the campaign were accused of human rights abuses. President Joseph Kabila said last week that the operation had started without MONUSCO. A government spokesman said Congo "renounces, in the most official manner, the support of MONUSCO to track the FDLR. We are going to track them alone." After members of the African Union's Peace and Security Council met on Monday to discuss the conflict, the AU special representative to the Great Lakes region, Boubacar Gaoussou Diarra, told Reuters: "We think that it should be a joint operation to succeed, which is why, today when Congo as a country renounced any logistical and professional support from MONUSCO, we were not very happy with this issue." The United Nations had given Kinshasa until mid-February to remove the two generals, Bruno Mandevu and Fall Sikabwe, whom it accused of involvement in human rights violations. Congo has said that the U.N. mission has not presented any evidence of the alleged abuses and it is not aware of any violations. "We need D.R. Congo to benefit from logistical and operational support from MONUSCO. It is the only way to secure the success of the operation against the FDLR because they (the rebels) have been on the ground for 20 years and they have melted into the population," Diarra said. The U.N. Security Council on Jan. 8 backed the military mission after the rebels -- estimated to number 1,400, including former soldiers and Hutu militiamen responsible for Rwanda's 1994 genocide -- ignored a Jan. 2 deadline to surrender. (Editing by Edith Honan and Robin Pomeroy)