Heavy fighting is currently ongoing in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo between M23 rebel group and Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC).
According to local reports, M23 rebels attacked Congo’s army positions near the border with Uganda and Rwanda on Sunday near the villages of Tshanzu and Runyonyi, northeast of the provincial capital Goma.
Dr Congo officials told a press conference late on Monday that the M23 were backed by Rwandan soldiers, two of whom it claimed to have captured.
Rwanda quickly refuted the claims “by the Spokesperson of the North Kivu Governor accusing RDF of supporting armed elements that attacked FARDC in Tshanzu and Runyoni (DRC)”.
The Governor of Rwanda West Province Habitegeko Francois said the Rwandan army does not have members with names presented by the North Kivu Governor’s spokesperson.
Other reports had suggested that Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) had joined the fight against M23 alongside FARDC.
Army spokesperson Brig Gen Felix Kulayigye told SoftPowerNews on Tuesday that UPDF has not entered DR Congo.
“We have not entered DRC,” he stated.
Residents flee to Uganda
Media reports said as many as 13,000 Congolese nationals have since fled into Uganda through Bunagana Border Post in Kisoro District.
The Kisoro Resident District Commissioner, Peter Mugisha, told media that fighting started in the villages of Chanzu, Runyonyi, and Bigyera in Rutshuru District, North Kivu province.
“About 8,000 Congolese refugees are camped at Bunagana border while about 5,000 others are camped at Kibaya area in Kisoro District,” he is quoted as saying.
Mugisha said they are liaising with the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) officials and the Office of the Prime Minister to have these refugees relocated to Nyakabande refugee transit camp in Kisoro District where they can have access to clean water and sanitary facilities.
“With a team of journalists to tell COVID-19 Vaccination stories in Kisoro. We were welcomed by loud blasts and gunshots on DRC side. We were on the road to Bunangana border. Many refugees are arriving. Kisoro and our team are safe,” tweeted Health ministry spokesperson, Ainebyoona Emmanuel, on Tuesday.
— Ainebyoona Emmanuel (@ainbyoo) March 29, 2022
“More Refugees arriving as they head to the reception centre,” added Ainebyoona.
Journalist Sarah Biryomumaisho said both Ugandans and Congolese refugees were fleeing Bunagana border area as gunfire continues.
“My brother said they closed the office & could see non-uniformed armed men taking cover near his residence but on the Congo side. He was scared to go home to pick up his bags amid the gunfire,” she tweeted.
Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) soldiers were seen deployed at the border on Tuesday to ensure security of Ugandans.
The M23 seized large swathes of territory during an insurrection in 2012 and 2013 before its fighters were chased out by Congolese and United Nations forces.