Congolese Refugees Flee to Uganda as Rebels Seize Border Town

M-23 Rebels
M-23 Rebels in eastern Congo

The Uganda High Commissioner to Rwanda Richard Kabonero, has described the situation in eastern DRC as “extremely worrying” following the capture of the border town of Bunagana on Friday by the rebel group M23, leading to an influx of refugees and over 600 heavily armed soldiers of the Congolese army (FARDC).

The rebellion in eastern DRC has led to an influx of tens of thousands of refugees to Rwanda and Uganda.

Kabonero told reporters last night that the heavily armed soldiers who fled to Uganda following the rebel occupation of Bunagana were being well looked after.

He spoke hours after the rebels offered to talk peace with Kinshasa.

The envoy observed that the number of refugees is also worrying. “We have over 50,000 refugees” said the Ugandan envoy.

“The soldiers were heavily armed and we disarmed them” Kabonero said adding that the flight of the Congolese soldiers and refugees to Uganda was also taxing in terms of resources to his country and international agencies looking after them.

Speaking to International media a day after seizing Bunagana, rebel political commissar Col. Vianney Kazarama said that they are ready to talk peace with Kinshasa.

Kazarama said that they do not intend to advance further into capturing other towns. His comments came after reports indicated that they were targeting capturing the town of Rutshuru in North Kivu.

The rebel spokesman appeared to dispel such talk as he emphasized that if the talks go on, M23 would have no reason of advancing on Rutshuru or Goma.

M23 is a rebel group that was formed recently following the return to arms of elements of the Congolese armed forces that were originally grouped under the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) in 2009.

The rebellion in eastern DRC has led to an influx of tens of thousands of refugees to Rwanda and Uganda over the last couple of months.

The rebels launched their revolt complaining of ill treatment saying that Kinshasa reneged on a number of promises made to them when the former CNDP soldiers laid down their arms and integrated into the regular ranks, ending a rebellion that saw the rebels humiliate Kinshasa by capturing a string of towns in eastern DRC.

As Bunagana fell, the UN said that one of its soldiers in the international peacekeeping mission (MONUSCO) in DRC had been killed in the battle for Bunagana.

The Ugandan envoy expressed optimism that something positive about the situation may come out of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) meeting to be held in Addis Abbab on Tuesday.

“We look forward to meeting with the Congolese minister in Addis at the meeting of the ICGLR.”

Kabonero said that the conflict in eastern DRC is an internal matter for the Congolese to deal with.

“We hope they settle the matter. It is an internal problem for them to solve,” said Kabonero.