Rebels in DR Congo vow to disarm after army threatens offensive

A box of ammunition reportedly abandoned by Rwandan ethnic Hutu rebels of the FDLR on March 11, 2014, near Tongo, DRC (AFP Photo/Alain Wandimoyi)

Kinshasa (AFP) - Rwandan Hutu rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Friday pledged to disarm a day after the Congolese army threatened a fresh offensive.

In a statement posted online on Friday, the rebels said: "The FDLR, in their determination to continue to work for peace in the region... reaffirm their commitment to following the disarmament process."

The FARDC (DRC Armed Forces) announced Thursday a fresh offensive against Rwandan ethnic Hutu rebels -- FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda) -- after weeks of heavy international pressure to act.

The Kinshasa government and the international community gave the rebel movement an ultimatum to lay down their arms and surrender by January 2 or face attacks and forcible disarmament.

They had started to disarm in June 2014.

A multitude of armed groups is active in the mineral-rich eastern provinces.

Older members of the FDLR are held responsible for taking part in the 1994 genocide in neighbouring Rwanda, when at least 800,000 people, mainly from the Tutsi minority, were massacred.

The killers fled across the border when a mainly Tutsi rebel front led by Paul Kagame, the current president of Rwanda, seized power after three months and ended the genocide.

Several diplomats and regional experts have expressed doubts about Kinshasa's determination to deal with the FDLR, believed to number between 1,500 and 2,000.