Congo rebels take border town, 30,000 escape to Uganda

congo rebels take border town, 30,000 escape to uganda
congo rebels take border town, 30,000 escape to uganda

M23 militants in the Democratic Republic of the Congo have taken the eastern border town of Bunagana, forcing more than 30,000 civilians to escape into neighbouring Uganda.

The capture of Bunagana was a severe defeat for the Congolese military, who claimed the guerrillas were on the run a day earlier.

Kenya wants a regional army in eastern Congo immediately

The United Nations and African Union expressed alarm about the escalating violence in an area where conflicts in the 1990s and 2000s caused millions of deaths, primarily from disease and famine, and produced dozens of active militias.

Bunagana was a bastion of the M23 during an uprising in 2012 that temporarily overran the city of Goma before Congolese and United Nations soldiers forced the rebels into Rwanda and Uganda the following year.

The office of North Kivu’s military governor reported on Sunday that Congolese soldiers had “rout[ed]” the M23 following early-morning attacks near Bunagana, one of Uganda’s primary border crossings.

However, Jean-Baptiste Twizere, the head of a local civil society organisation, reported that the rebels captured the city on Sunday night.

“Congolese soldiers who were surrounded by adversaries in Bunagana were helpless, and since 11 p.m. they have fled the city,” he told Reuters from Bunagana on Monday.

Edgard Mateso, vice president of an advocacy organisation in the province of North Kivu, verified the M23 control.

General Sylvain Ekenge, the spokesman for the military authority of North Kivu, stated that he has no information at this time.

More than 30,000 Congolese asylum seekers and 137 Congolese troops crossed into Uganda on Monday, according to Shaffiq Sekandi, resident district commissioner for Uganda’s Kisoro region.

“They are everywhere; the streets are crowded, others have fled to churches, and others are hiding beneath trees. It’s an extremely dire scenario “he remarked.

Previously, the United Nations estimated that 25,000 people left the violence on Sunday.

A spokesman for U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres expressed worry on the deteriorating security situation in eastern Congo, especially M23 attacks. Since Rwanda and Uganda attacked the region twice in the 1990s, there has been near-constant violence.

Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the African Union Commission, has demanded an urgent suspension of hostilities and discussions between Congo and Rwanda to address a rising diplomatic crisis.

Sunday, Congolese authorities re-accused Rwanda of supporting the most recent onslaught by the M23, whose leadership belongs to the same Tutsi ethnic group as Rwandan President Paul Kagame.

Rwanda has denied providing any assistance and accused Congo of coordinating with a paramilitary group created by ethnic Hutus who left Rwanda after participating in the genocide of 1994. Congo disputes the accusation.

During the violence of 2012-2013, Congolese and United Nations investigators accused Rwanda and Uganda of assisting the M23, which they denied.

On Monday, two top Congolese security officials who requested anonymity accused the Ugandan military of aiding the M23’s offensive.

Twizere stated that he witnessed Ugandan troops crossing the border in order to prevent the Congolese army’s entry to Bunagana.

The spokesman for the Ugandan army, Brigadier Felix Kulayigye, denied any involvement. We’ve been in this position for months, he explained.

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