News24

Fresh fighting in eastern DRC

2012-06-04 14:13

Bunagana - Fresh fighting broke out on Monday in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) between the army and mutineers following a relative lull that lasted a week.

The regular army (FARDC) used heavy armour to launch a pre-dawn raid against positions held by the mutineers on Chanzu hill, in a remote part of the Virunga National Park near the borders with Rwanda and Ouganda.

The shelling took place less than 60km from Goma, the capital of the troubled Nord-Kivu province, an AFP correspondent reported.

"They have attacked us from 05:00. We responded to their attack. They are already pulling back," Colonel Vianney Kazarama, the spokesperson for the mutineers' March 23 Movement (M23), told AFP.

FARDC troops redeployed in the combat zone, notably on Bugusa hill, near the town of Jomba, where heavy fighting took place at the end of May.

A battalion of commandos arrived in the town of Bunagana on Friday to take charge of an important border post with Uganda, located about a dozen kilometres from Chanzu hill.

The mutineers are Congolese Tutsis and former rebels of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), who were integrated into the Congolese army under a peace agreement signed on 23 March 2009.

They began in early April to defect in large numbers from their military units in Sud-Kivu and Nord-Kivu, claiming poor treatment and demanding the full implementation of the 2009 deal on wages, food, promotions and duties.

At a military trial on May 30, when 13 officers were given sentences ranging from two years to death for taking part in the mutiny, the court president said that the uprising was planned during a meeting in Goma in March, chaired by General Bosco Ntaganda.

Ntaganda was the military chief of the CNDP, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on a war crimes charge of recruiting child soldiers.

The latest violence has prompted the displacement of about 100 000 civilians.