The regional force recaptures a strategic rebel-held city in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

The regional force recaptures a strategic rebel-held city in the Democratic Republic of the Congo

Kinshasa, 3 April. Ugandan forces from the East African Community military force “occupied” the strategic town of Bunagana, on the border between the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Uganda, after the withdrawal of the March 23 rebel movement. who controlled that city for ten months.

Ugandan Army Spokesperson Felix Kulaygi announced on Twitter: “The Ugandan contingent of East African Community Regional Force (EACRF) officially occupied East Bunagana areas in DRC during peacekeeping mission, after M23 left that area.”

added the military spokesperson, who noted that the Ugandan forces in the EACRF are “neutral” and “will not fight the M23”.

For his part, former Kenyan President and regional mediator Uhuru Kenyatta today also confirmed EACRF control of Bunagana, a major trading and trucking hub on the DRC-Uganda shared border.

He also indicated that the rebels are also expected to leave the neighboring Congolese town of Kiwanga (east) on April 15 and hand over control of that area to Ugandan forces.

“(The withdrawal of the rebels) is significant. These developments indicate that more armed groups are now adhering to what was agreed upon during the Nairobi meetings and are therefore increasingly likely to engage in political tracks,” Kenyatta said in a statement.

The announcement of the M23’s withdrawal from some towns comes after more than a year of fighting by the rebels against Congolese army positions and several failed ceasefire attempts, with both sides accusing each other of violating the agreement.

Since March 2022, when the M23 reactivated intensified attacks against the FARDC, rebels have managed to capture several strategic areas and towns, causing more than 8,000 civilians to flee, according to the United Nations.

Thus, the rebels took control of Bunagana – a border point that in the past allowed the 23rd March, after demanding the carriers their own taxes, to increase its income and improve its military capacity, according to UN experts’ reports – on 13th June.

Their fighting also caused a diplomatic crisis in which the Congolese authorities accused neighboring Rwanda of supporting the March 23 Movement, something Kigali has strongly denied despite at least two UN reports confirming the cooperation.

Meanwhile, Rwanda and the M23 accuse the Congolese army of collaborating with the rebel Forces Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), founded in 2000 by leaders of the 1994 genocide and other Rwandan exiles in the DRC to restore political power in their country of origin.

The United Nations has also confirmed this cooperation.

Since 1998, eastern DRC has been mired in conflict fueled by rebel militias and attacks by army soldiers, despite the presence of the United Nations peacekeeping mission (MONUSCO) in the country.

The absence of alternatives and stable livelihoods has prompted thousands of Congolese to take up arms, and according to the Kivu Security Barometer (KST), the far east of DRC is a battleground for around 120 rebel groups. EFE

py-pm / fpa

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