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Congolese nationals flee to Uganda over heavy fighting between M23 rebels and gov’t forces

Congolese nationals camp in Uganda. URN photo

Kisoro, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Over 8000 Congolese nationals fleeing fresh fighting between suspected members of the March 23 Movement (M23) and the Congolese government forces in Bwisha chiefdom, Rutshuru territory, North Kivu province have crossed to Kisoro district in Uganda.

According to residents, heavy fighting erupted in the hills of Runyonyi and Tchanzu in Sabyino mountains of the Virunga ranges, about four kilometres to the Uganda-DR Congo border of Bunagana in Kisoro district at around 4 am on Monday morning.

Masse Mujana Masava and Francois Kwitegyetsi, both from Gisiza village in Chanzu, say that they were sleeping when they heard heavy gunfire. They say that they immediately woke up and run away and don’t know the reasons behind the fighting.

Amani Prince and Jackson Mandella also says that they were forced to flee due to repeated heavy gunfire.

Colonel Muhindo Lwanzo, an assistant administrator in Rutshuru territory admits that the area came under attack. He however says that details will be availed later. “As I speak to you, there is a fight between us and the elements of the M23, the report may be available soon,” said Lorenzo.

Captain Peter Mugisha, the outgoing Kisoro Resident District Commissioner says that by 02:00pm, more than 8000 people had crossed and camped on the Ugandan side of the Bunagana border.

Mugisha says that more than 600 have crossed through Kibaya porous border, adding that more are still crossing. He says that efforts to take them to Nyakabande transit site for safe management are underway.

Mugisha says that they have been told by Congolese security authorities that the suspected M23 rebels have captured three army barracks in Rutchuru territory about two kilometres from the DR Congo-Uganda border. He also says that the Congolese authorities haven’t revealed if there are deaths or injuries.

Elly Maate, the Kigezi region police spokesperson says that the situation is under control on the Ugandan side by both Uganda Peoples Defense Forces (UPDF) and Uganda Police Forces. Over 15 vehicles of Dott Services that were contracted by Uganda to tarmac roads in DR Congo were also seen crossing to Uganda via Bunagana border.

Our reporter was not able to get a comment from the M23 commanders. In November last year, a similar attack happened in the same area. Locals again fled to Uganda. The government blamed M23 for being behind the act. But M23 through its president Bertrand Bisimwa released a statement strongly denying the accusations.

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