Congo – The Congolese army announced Tuesday that it had retaken all of its posts in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, which it said were attacked on Sunday night by former M23 rebels. The military had previously accused members of the M23 rebel group of storming a base in the Rutshuru district of eastern Congo, and fighting had erupted.
“With the goal of destabilizing the province, the M23 insurgency movement attacked FARDC troops in Rutshuru. Fighting is currently taking place, and loyalist forces are determined to eliminate this armed organization once and for all,” General Sylvain Ekenge, the Congolese military’s deputy spokesman (FARDC), said. According to him, the rebels assaulted the North Kivu province’s remote villages of Runyonyi and Chanzu, which are located on important slopes between Rwanda and Uganda. The rebels had taken over territory around there in 2012, but Congolese and UN soldiers forced them out of the area in 2013, forcing them into Uganda and Rwanda.
In a statement released Monday, the M23 organization denied being behind the attacks or fighting with the military or administration. According to the Uganda Red Cross, the conflict has led a large number of refugees to flee to Uganda. The group said Monday that it has dispatched a team to examine the needs of refugees escaping nighttime fighting between unidentified armed factions. Hundreds of people were camped at the Bunagana border station, according to spokeswoman Irene Nakasiita, seeking refuge in Uganda.
The Ugandan government did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 1.3 million refugees have fled from turmoil in neighboring countries such as South Sudan to the East African country. Fighting between opposing armed groups, including rebels opposed to the government in Kinshasa, has made Eastern Congo a hotbed of danger. A Ugandan-based armed organization has been implicated in a number of attacks on civilians in the region in recent years.
The US Embassy in Congo issued a security notice on Sunday, citing “information of a potential attack in Goma,” the capital of North Kivu province. The advice stated that “there is an increased security presence across the city” and that U.S. government personnel in the vicinity should shelter in place.