NORTH KIVU - Fresh fighting has broken out in the eastern DRC following alleged attacks on rebel Congolese General Laurent Nkunda’s troops by Rwandan Genocide militias based there.
The clashes threaten a three-week shaky UN-brokered ceasefire, which had stopped fighting between Nkunda’s forces and the Congolese government army backed by the Rwandan Genocide fugitives earlier in the month.
Nkunda’s Spokesman Rene Munyarugerero said yesterday that fighters of the Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) “on Monday evening attacked our bases in Bwito and Ngungu in Masisi, North Kivu.”
Heavy fighting was still going on by the time we went to press.
He said intense clashes were in the towns of Karuba, Ngungu and Mweso, all of which are close to the Rwandan border.
“They (FDLR) attacked us and we are defending ourselves although we have no intentions of mounting a major operation against them now, Munyarugerero said.
He said some FDLR fighters had been captured, but could not specify the number. This newspaper could not, however, verify that with independent sources.
The clashes in August and early September left at least 160,000 homeless and stopped just days before a regional meeting was held in Kampala, Uganda during which Congo’s push to blacklist Nkunda was delayed.
The UN Mission in Congo (Monuc) brokered a ceasefire in the town of Sake, just 20 km (12 miles) west of provincial capital, Goma, on September 6.
Meanwhile, another spokesman for Nkunda’s National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), Rene Abandi, accused the Congolese national army of firing first on Monday.
“The army started this war. We were attacked by the president of the republic. He thinks that since he was elected he can impose war. We still want to negotiate,” he told Reuters.
However, the DRC army accused Nkunda’s forces of attacking them. “They attacked then withdrew. We are maintaining our defensive positions. We have no intention of carrying out military operations against them for now,” the army’s top commander in North Kivu, General Vainqueur Mayala, said.
Sylvie Van Den Wildenberg, MONUC spokesperson in North Kivu, said the UN peacekeepers had no proof that CNDP is being attacked by FDLR and the Congolese army.
Nkunda who picked up arms after defecting from the national army in 2004 says he is fighting FDLR and other negative elements that have continuously targeted a section of Congolese civilians.
He particularly blames FDLR for rape, murder and other human rights abuses in the country’s east.
FDLR is composed of mainly the remnants of the former Rwandan government soldiers (Far) and Interahamwe militias. Both groups are largely blamed for the 1994 Rwanda Genocide, which claimed an estimated one million people.