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Security stops trucks crossing to DRC as M23, FARDC clash

Trucks are currently parked at Bunagana border. File Photo

Kisoro, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Security has stopped trucks crossing Bunagana border in Kisoro district to the Democratic Republic of Congo due to the intense clashes between the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) and the March 23 Movement (M23) rebels in Rutshuru territory.

Heavy fighting broke out around 03:00 am Wednesday after FARDAC soldiers launched an offensive against rebel positions in Bugusa. General Sylvain Ekenge, the spokesman for the North Kivu governor confirmed the attack against the M23 positions.

According to Ekenge, FARDC troops are preparing to attack other M23 positions. Colonel Ndjike Kaiko Guillaume, the spokesperson for Sokola 2 operations, claimed that M23 rebels are in disarray and are already proving their limits against the firepower of the loyalist army.

Ndike asked civilians to remain calm, saying that the Congolese army will defend itself until the end and will not let go of any opportunity to retaliate against M23. The fighting has forced many inhabitants of the square to flee again. Several of them took the direction of Bunagana, the border with Uganda.

A security official at Bunagana border told our reporter on condition of anonymity that with refugees crossing to Uganda, security authorities have stopped trucks heading to Congo at the border.  He says that the decision was reached in an indoor meeting after realizing that the road from Bunagana to Rutshuru is currently not safe due to the heavy fighting.

Bertrand Bisimwa, the president of the M23 rebels issued a statement on Twitter accusing FARDC of using the front line Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDRL), a Rwandan rebel group and other militia groups like Nyatura-Niyo, Collective of Movements for Change (CMC), Unity and Democracy (RUD), a faction of Rwandan Hutu rebels among others to attack his troops.

Fighting was still ongoing by the time of filing this story. The fresh fighting comes at a time when the DRC government has excluded M23 rebels from the ongoing talks with other rebel groups in Kenya’s capital Nairobi. The talks started on early Saturday.

The office of the Congolese presidency accused M23 rebels of resuming fighting against FARDC soldiers yet talks had started. During the talks, Congolese government officials led by special representative Serge Tshibangu, the coordinator of the National Mechanism for monitoring the Addis Ababa agreement, Claude Ibalanky, and General François Kabamba, the military adviser to the Head of State, demanded and obtained the Kenyan facilitation of the immediate expulsion from the room of the military chief of the March 23 Movement Sultan Makenga.

Later, M23 rebels through their spokesperson Major Willy Ngoma released a statement accusing FARDC soldiers of attacking their various positions in Bugusa. Ngoma said that as M23, they were ready and prepared to participate in the ongoing talks in Nairobi but were surprised to see FARDC soldiers launching attacks. Ngoma said that M23 had no option but to defend themselves until the FARDC  stop carrying out attacks.

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