Rwanda has denied knowledge of the whereabouts of the M23 rebels, who are accused of attacking the DR Congo. Instead Rwanda accuses Uganda of hosting and supporting the M23 rebels and their activities since surrendering to Kampala authorities in 2013.
M23 rebels have been accused by the DR Congo authorities of attacking two villages neighbouring Uganda resulting into an influx of refugees in south western Uganda.
Over 5,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have crossed to neighboring Uganda through the southwestern district of Kisoro after fresh fighting erupted at home.
“The ex-M23 group in question did not seek refuge in Rwanda during their retreat from DRC in 2013, but has been based in Uganda, from where this attack originated, and to where the armed group retreated,” says Rwanda in a press statement issued on Tuesday November 9.
Gunmen suspected to be ex M23 attacked and seized at least two villages overnight in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) near the border with Uganda and Rwanda resulting into hundreds of Congolese people crossing through the town of Bunagana into Kisoro in South Western Uganda.
The Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) on Monday accused the March 23 Movement (M23) of conducting attacks in DRC’s northeastern border region with Uganda, where violence has escalated since the beginning of this year due to presence of numerous armed groups.
The M23 attacked the military positions of Chanzu and Runyonyi, in North Kivu province, “with the intention of carrying out destabilizing actions and elsewhere in the province,” the FARDC Chief of Staff Celestin Mbala Munsense said in a statement, adding that the fighting is still ongoing.
On Monday, Lieutenant-Colonel Muhindo Luanzo, assistant to the administrator of Rutshuru Territory, blamed the attack on fighters from M23, a rebel group that seized large swaths of territory in 2012 and 2013.
The two villages, Tshanzu and Runyoni, were the last redoubts of M23 before they were chased by Congolese and United Nations forces into Uganda and Rwanda in 2013.
“It has been reported that an armed group believed to be ex-M23 rebels, on Sunday evening 7 November 2021, crossed into DRC from Ugandan territory where it is based, and attacked and occupied the villages of Tshanzu and Runyoni,” says Rwanda, adding that the Rwanda Defense Force is neither involved in nor supports any activities of the ex-M23 armed group.
By press time, the Uganda People’s Defence Forces spokesperson, Brig Flavia Byekwaso, had not responded to Rwanda’s allegations on Uganda harbouring ex M23 rebels.
However, the Uganda army appears to be in control of the situation.
“We are closely monitoring along our border with DRC and we are ready to deal with whatever comes. But the security situation in Congo is worse. That is why we are seeing all these people coming to Uganda,” Geoffrey Sande, the spokesperson of the Second Division of the Uganda People’s Defense Forces told Xinhua by telephone.
The M23 President, Bertrand Bisimwa, has denied that his men had launched such attack in the region.
Though admitting M23’s presence since 2017, Bisimwa claimed that his soldiers have avoided initiating “useless war” and that the M23 is “waiting impatiently the sincerity” of the DRC president Felix Tshisekedi to implement the outcomes reached by M23 and DRC’s government during the peace talks for more than a year.
“However, we require that uncontrolled elements deployed in different government army positions in Rutshuru territory to put an end to the provocative acts they engage in malignantly,” said Bisimwa.
Who is M23?
The rebels are named after a peace agreement they signed with the Congolese government on March 23, 2009 when they were fighting as part of a group calling itself the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP). Many CNDP fighters were integrated into the Congolese army, officially known by its French initials FARDC.
In April 2012, former National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) soldiers mutinied against the DRC government and the peacekeeping contingent of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO). Mutineers formed a rebel group called the March 23 Movement (M23), also known as the Congolese Revolutionary Army. It was composed of former members of the rebel CNDP, and allegedly sponsored by the government of the neighbouring states of Rwanda and Uganda.
In March 2009, National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) rebels signed a peace treaty with the government, in which it agreed to become a political party in exchange for the release of its imprisoned members.
The National Congress for the Defence of the People (French: Congrès national pour la défense du peuple, CNDP) was a political armed militia established by Laurent Nkunda in the Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo in December 2006. In January 2009, the CNDP split and Nkunda was arrested by the Rwanda government.
The remaining CNDP splinter faction, led by Bosco Ntaganda, was planned to be integrated into the national army.
On 20 November 2012, M23 rebels took control of Goma, a North Kivu provincial capital with a population of one million people.
By the end of November that year, the conflict had forced more than 140,000 people to flee their homes, according to the U.N. refugee agency, in addition to the refugees already forced from their homes by previous rounds of fighting in the region. After repelling an ill-organized government counterattack and making some further gains, M23 agreed to withdraw from Goma on their own and left the city in early December.
M23 rebelled against the Congolese government for supposedly reneging on a peace deal signed in 2009. The UN Security Council authorized an offensive brigade under the mandate of the UN Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) to support the DRC state army in its fight against M23. The Congolese army and UN peacekeepers defeated the group in 2013, but other armed groups have since emerged.
On 24 February 2013, eleven African nations signed an agreement designed to bring peace to the region. On 7 November 2013, following significant defeats to a UN-backed government offensive, M23 troops crossed into Uganda and surrendered.
On November 3, armed men burst into Democratic Republic of Congo’s eastern city of Bukavu overnight on Wednesday, triggering clashes that killed 11 people.
Then on October 28, the Congolese army said that it had lost four soldiers and killed 27 militiamen in two days of fighting in several villages in the northeast of the country.
The fighting took place on Tuesday October 26 and Thursday October 28 in two villages in Djugu territory in Ituri province after militiamen from the Cooperative for the Development of Congo (CODECO) group burned down more than 20 houses in four neighbouring areas and attacked an army position.
The military “found and saw 27 bodies of CODECO militiamen, and three AK 47 type weapons were recovered.
On October 25 Islamic State said it was responsible for an attack in the village about 40 km (25 miles) east of the city of Beni that week.
Residents of Kalembo village told Reuters that rebels killed 16 people and torched houses in an attack on Wednesday that a local human rights group blamed on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).
Felix Tshisekedi, president of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), has declared a “state of siege” over the escalating violence in the eastern provinces of Ituri and North Kivu.
A surge in attacks by armed groups and intercommunal fighting in the DRC’s east have killed more than 300 people since the start of the year, deepening a humanitarian and displacement crisis in the mineral-rich territory.