Refugees flee new eastern DRC clashes
14 May 2012, 14:03
Goma - Scores of residents fled heavy fighting between government forces
and army mutineers in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on
Sunday, a local source told AFP.
Disgruntled troops have fought
for weeks under rebel leader General Bosco Ntaganda - known as the
"Terminator" and wanted by the International Criminal Court in The Hague
- or as part of breakaway militias.
The mutineers are one-time
rebels who were integrated into the national army under a 2009 peace
deal but defected again after long complaining of a lack of pay, poor
food and difficulties in winning promotions.
The fighting has
rocked areas in and around Virunga national park, on the border with
Rwanda and Uganda, a habitat famed for its mountain gorillas.
More than 10 000 people have fled to Rwanda and Uganda.
Saturday, government forces carried out air strikes against Runyonyi, a
town near the Rwandan border which is held by the mutineers, the army
A representative of a local civil society group told AFP on
Sunday that "there has been heavy weapon firing this morning in
Runyonyi. People are fleeing the hills around Runyonyi and heading for
Jomba and Tchengerero."
A spokesperson for one breakaway group,
the March 23 movement (M23), said civilians were also fleeing the
Bunagana region, some crossing into Uganda.
Tanks and fighter planes
"Massive population displacement is taking place because of fear of fighting," Lieutenant Colonel Vianney Kazarana said.
said loyalist forces on Saturday attacked the mutineers with tanks and
fighter planes, but "unfortunately for them, we put up a good defence".
repelled government forces in Runyonyi, Bukima, Bikenge... Loyalist
forces bombed places when we weren't even there, they bombed the local
The M23 is demanding full implementation of March
2009 peace accords which allowed former rebels of Ntaganda's National
Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) to be incorporated into
In April, more than a dozen senior officers from the
former CNDP mutinied along with several hundred men in the north and
south Kivu regions.
The CNDP offered on Sunday to broker talks between the Congolese government and the various mutineers.
of things getting worse and worse, we can offer mediation" because the
mutineers are ex-CNDP and they "listen to us, we have influence on
them," CNDP spokesperson Antoine Mahamba Kasiwa told AFP.
is wanted by the ICC on a war crimes charge of enlisting child
soldiers, but Kinshasa had refused to hand him over, saying he was
needed to keep the peace pact.
Loyalist forces believe Ntaganda
and a small group of his men have taken refuge in Virunga national park,
where a ranger and two soldiers were killed when they came under
machine-gun fire from some 100 unidentified men.
defence ministers from Rwanda and the DRC met on Saturday in the border
area of Gisenyi for security talks focussing on the ongoing clashes and
"Rwanda is committed to assisting the Democratic
Republic of Congo [in] finding a peaceful and political solution to the
ongoing crisis without the use of military force," Rwandan army
spokesperson Joseph Nzamwita said on Sunday.
The two countries intend to exchange intelligence and assess security threats along their common border.