Congo Rebels Call for Talks after Seizing Border Towns

2327 Views Kisoro, Uganda

In short
After capturing Bunagana border town in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the rebels are now calling for talks with President Joseph Kabila’s government.

After capturing Bunagana border town in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the rebels are now calling for talks with President Joseph Kabila’s government.
 
On Thursday night, the M23 rebels loyal to renegade Congolese army officers, Bosco Ntaganda and Col. Makenga, captured the border towns of Bunagana and Karambo, forcing thousands of civilians and at least 600 government soldiers into Uganda.

The rebels, who are now in control of all government offices at Bunagana, say that their intention is not to fight but will always do so whenever they are provoked by the government.
 
The M23, who are named after the date in March 2009 when the rebels signed a deal with the Congolese government to be integrated into the national army, are also controlling the strategic town of Rushuru after seizing it on Friday afternoon, hours after taking Bunagana and Karambo.

Col. Vianny Karamazani the M23 Spokesperson told Uganda Radio Network that they never wanted to launch an assault on the border towns but were disturbed by the government which deliberately refused to honor their requests agreed on in Goma on March 23, 2009.
 
The spokesperson accompanied by Col. Jeanclaude Nzamuye, took a URN reporter to the areas where heavy fighting took place on Thursday night and Friday morning.

Dead bodies were littered in the streets, rebels celebrated in bars and in a nearby Banana plantation, as locals buried dead bodies in a mass grave.
Col. Nzamuye, who led the assault on the border town, says that they killed many government soldiers but did not give the number.

He says that the rebels will continue patrolling the areas of Rushuru, Zomba, Gisigari, Busanza, Karambo and Rwankuba among others that were captured from the government soldiers.

The URN reporter was able to count 15 dead bodies and just next to one of them was a certificate received from Murah Training Centre with the details of the deceased as Sgt. Makombo Kizenga. The rebels say that skilled soldiers who were trained by the South African Army were the ones brought to fight the rebels.

Col. Karamazani says that former presidents, Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria and Benjamin Mkapa of Tanzania, had mediated between the rebels and the government but the government did not fulfill the promises.

The rebels demand for promotions in the army based on merit, health services for all, improvement on the existing roads as well as facilitating the army to fight rebels from Rwanda.

Karamazani says that the government should also think about the Congolese who are scattered in different camps in the neighbouring countries saying that they must return to their ancestral home. Karamazani notes that instead of honoring their promises, the government decided to send more soldiers from Kinshasa to fight the rebels.

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Karamazani also accused the government of condoning the rape of locals by its soldiers.

He adds that if the government fails to listen to their demands the rebels will continue pushing them and take away major roads and offices from them.

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Meanwhile the Uganda People’s Defense Forces—UPDF has tightened security along the border and says that the situation is calm.

Major Charles Mukasa, the commanding officer of the 63rd battalion in Kisoro, revealed that the soldiers who fled the fighting were accorded maximum security and that they will later be handed over to the Congolese government.
 
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About the author

Anthony Kushaba
For Anthony Kushaba, journalism is not just a job; it is a calling. Kushaba believes journalism is one of the few platforms where the views of the oppressed and margainalised can be heard. This is what his journalism aims to do: bring to light untold stories.

Kushaba is the Mbarara region URN bureau chief. Mitooma, Ntungamo, Bushenyi, Sheema, Isingiro, and Kiruhura districts fall under his docket. Kushaba has been a URN staff member since 2012.

Kushaba is a journalism graduate from Uganda Christian University Study Centre at Bishop Barham College in Kabale. Before joining URN, Kushaba worked with Voice of Kigezi (2008), Bushenyi FM (2010) and later on to Voice of Muhabura.

Kushaba's journalism interests centre on conflict, peace and electoral reporting. Kushaba occasionally writes on tourism, health, religion and education. He describes himself as highly driven and will pursue a tip until it yields a story.