REGIONAL - Congolese rebel leader General Laurent Nkunda says he has decided to go on offensive because he is tired of only defending himself. Nkunda was yesterday reacting to the continued attacks by the Congolese government troops that have last for three days.
“This time we are not only fighting back but we are going to attack, fight and advance,” he said yesterday.
On Sunday, DRC said it had attacked and captured 30 men from Nkunda group but the general refuted the claims saying government troops are ‘just struggling and most of them were apprehended.’
The rebels’ 6th Brigade Commander Col. Mulomba Bahati said government troops were attacking from downhill in villages of Rubaya, Kibabi and across the Sake village, about 30km from the Rwanda-DRC border.
“We have been fighting for the last three days and we are still fighting now as we talk,” Bahati said and suddenly switched off his phone.
Three minutes later Bahati picked the call and spoke again, saying he was commanding on the frontline.
“We are seriously fighting, they are shooting and we are shooting,” he said as blasts and gunshots could be heard. “We are just shooting at each other but we are defeating them.”
He said the FRDC (Congolese army) has firmly kept exchanging brigades but ‘they have failed to beat the boys off the hill.’
This time round, he said, both sides were fighting face to face. “It is a serious battle because we can see each other,” he said.
He said that 106 Katyushi, 37mm, 14mm and 120mm are among the strong arms both sides are using. A war expert said such weapons are used in serious battles.
“Those are strong anti-aircrafts and if they are using them, that is an implication of a strong fighting,” the Kigali-based expert said adding that the Katyushi releases eight strong bombs at ago.
A source in Goma, the city of the South Kivu, said on Sunday the DR Congo military helicopters were flying to and fro around the Goma skies. “We knew something wrong was going to happen and now there is severe fighting.”
DR Congo’s army claimed to have killed 35 Nkunda loyalists near the town of Ngungu but Col. Mulomba disputed the death toll.
He said they were fighting both FRDC and the FDLR, Rwandan rebels operating in DRC. “FRDC has exchanged brigades more than three times. “We have failed them and we are maintaining our pressure,” he claimed.
General Nkunda said: “We have forty captives whom we captured last week and whatever the government is saying is just intended to physiologically encourage their soldiers.”
Army officials and the UN peacekeeping mission in DRC (MONUC) reported more fighting near Ngungu early on Sunday but had no details on casualties.
General Vainqueur Mayala, the Congolese army’s top commander in North Kivu, told newswires that his forces had pushed back attacks on Sunday.
“We repelled them. They attacked us everywhere. They are trying to generalise this,” he told Reuters.
Nkunda accused the government army of preparing more offensives, but warned that he would not wait for the attacks, but would attack in advance.
Gen. Nkunda said he has over requested Monuc to make the two sides implement the ceasefire but Monuc has not done so. “They are on the side of the government,’ he told reporters last month.
“We kept telling Monuc to settle the issue down but nothing is being done. Now we are not following them (Monuc) anymore,” Nkunda said yesterday.
Recently, Congolese President Joseph Kabila urged Nkunda to integrate his forces voluntarily into the national army or face force but the dissident general has refused claiming that he has some political grievances.
Nkunda says he is fighting to protect his kin who are constantly attacked by FDLR, composed of people that are largely blamed for the 1994 Rwanda Genocide. Last week FDLR fired several gunshots on Rwanda.