Congo fighting flares as hundreds shelter in convent

Fighters from the M23 rebel group clashed with the army in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Monday in a fourth day of violence in which four civilians have been killed, the army said.

About 500 people, some of them injured, sought shelter in a convent in Ntamugenga village near the borders of Uganda and Rwanda and needed to be evacuated, the medical charity, Medecins Sans Frontieres, tweeted.

The unrest in North Kivu province has broken months of relative calm in eastern Congo following clashes between the army and M23 militants at the end of March.

The group declared a ceasefire in April, and the seven countries of the East African Community trade bloc set up a regional military force to try to stem decades of militant activity in Congo’s mineral-rich east.

But M23 rebels attacked military posts in Rutshuru territory near the border with Uganda and Rwanda on Thursday, national army spokesman, Sylvain Ekenge, said in a statement late on Sunday.

Four civilians were killed and 40 injured, including children, he added.

M23 spokesman, Willy Ngoma, and the group’s President, Bertrand Bisimwa, both posted Twitter posts accusing the army of initiating the violence.

A civil society source which did not wish to be named said the M23 had captured Ntamugenga, a strategic target close to a highway connecting the city of Butembo to provincial capital, Goma.

“Fighting continues around Ntamugenga this morning,” Ekenge told Reuters on Monday.

One Congolese official said the army had retreated from the village to protect civilians and was shooting at M23 rebels in surrounding bush land.

The M23 was waging its most sustained offensive this year since a 2012-2013 insurrection that seized vast swaths of territory before fighters were chased out by Congolese and United Nations forces into Uganda and Rwanda.

There have been regional efforts in recent years to have the M23 demobilise, but its leaders have complained about the slow implementation of a peace accord and accused the Congolese army of waging war against it.

Congo accused Rwanda and Uganda of backing the group, which they denied. -Reuters

Show More
Back to top button