“The army has just surrendered”: Thousands are fleeing fierce fighting in the Congo

“The army has just surrendered”
Thousands of people are fleeing the brutal fighting in Congo

Rebels and the government army are waging heavy battles in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The M-23 militia is said to have literally taken its place. Thousands then flee to neighboring Uganda, where the situation of many refugees is still dramatizing.

About 5,000 people fled to Uganda from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) after fighting between Congolese government forces and members of the M-23 rebel militia in North Kivu province. According to a spokesman for the Ugandan government, there were about 100 soldiers and 37 police officers among the refugees. “They are not injured because they fled without a fight (to Uganda) and surrendered there,” a police spokesman said.

The rebels literally occupied and ruled the Congolese border town of Bunagana, the head of the neighboring Ugandan district, Shafiq Sekandi, told the German news agency. “There are no police, customs officers, immigration authorities, trucks stuck,” he described the situation in the city on the other side of the border.

“The army simply surrendered and moved to Uganda,” said Damien Sebusanane, head of a local organization in Bunagana. Bunagana is a major border crossing for goods and travel between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, approximately 490 kilometers from Uganda’s capital Kampala.

According to Sekandis, more than 30,000 people from the neighboring country are already stranded on the Ugandan side of the border, sleeping in schools, churches and hospitals, but also in the open air. A Red Cross spokeswoman in Uganda spoke on Monday about the tense situation in Bunagana. The humanitarian situation is worrying, warned Hervé Nsabimana of the human rights organization Codhas.

The East DRC has been plagued by fighting between the military and various militias for years. The Kinshasa government accuses neighboring Rwanda of supporting the M-23 militia. Rwanda denied it. On Monday, General Sylvain Ekenge, a spokesman for the military governor of North Kivu, accused Rwanda of “stifling” the capital of Goma province by occupying Bunagana M-23. Goma is very close to the border with Rwanda. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the fighting has forced at least 72,000 people to flee, some of whom have since returned to their villages.

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