DR Congo rebels seize Ugandan border trading center
A rebel group in eastern DR Congo, which the government accuses of being backed by Rwanda, has invaded a commercial hub on the border with Uganda, local sources said on Monday.
M23 fighters seized the town of Bunagana in North Kivu province as some government forces retreated into Uganda, they said.
However, Ugandan officials said the fighting was on the DRC side and the town was safe.
“We have information that the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo in Bunangana is under the control of M23 rebels, but the security situation on the Ugandan side is completely normal,” said Fred Enanga, spokesperson for Ugandan police.
Bunagana “is under enemy control,” said a Congolese officer, reached by AFP by telephone from Goma.
“The army has just given in and is heading towards Uganda,” said Damien Sebusanane, head of a local civil society association, who was on the Ugandan side of the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). .
“An army truck just passed, four jeeps and other vehicles full of soldiers,” he said, estimating the number of DRC soldiers retreating to Uganda at around 100.
A humanitarian source on the ground said heavy clashes erupted again on Sunday morning and the only way out for embattled DRC troops was to cross into Uganda.
The M23, a mainly Congolese Tutsi militia, is one of more than 120 armed groups active in eastern DRC.
It briefly captured Goma in 2012, but a joint offensive by UN troops and the Congolese army put down the rebellion.
UN refugee concerns
The group resumed fighting in November last year after accusing the Congolese government of failing to honor a 2009 agreement under which the army was to incorporate its fighters.
Thousands of people have fled to Uganda and the Congolese territory of Rutshuru since a second episode of violence erupted in March.
The DRC government reiterated on Sunday that Rwanda supports the rebels, a claim that Rwanda has repeatedly denied.
In their assault on Bunagana, the M23 were “supported by soldiers and artillery from the Rwandan army”, the DRC army said in a statement, adding that two soldiers and several enemy combatants were killed. .
Lily: DRC accuses Rwanda of deploying soldiers “to defend the M23”
General Sylvain Ekenge, spokesman for the province’s military government, said Rwanda was seeking to “asphyxiate” Goma, the capital of North Kivu, and pressure the government in Kinshasa.
The UN refugee agency said on Monday that another 368 people had crossed into Uganda from Bunagana, and that the humanitarian situation was “increasingly worrying”.
Relations between the DRC and Rwanda have been strained since the massive arrival in eastern DRC of Rwandan Hutus accused of having massacred Tutsis during the Rwandan genocide of 1994.
– Additional reporting by The EastAfrican.