15 November 2012

Rwanda Tells Congo, M23 to Halt War As 2500 Refugees Arrive

Photo: Sylvain Liechti/Monusco
Displaced by conflict (file photo): There is widespread concern that the renewed fighting will hamper the ongoing peace process.

Rwanda on Thursday evening urged the Congolese army (FARDC) and M23 rebels to stop fighting and respect the decisions of the regional security bloc ICGLR on cessation of hostilities in DRC.

Foreign Affairs Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said the new fighting that erupted Wednesday night will undermine the ongoing ICGLR peace process. The latest battle follows a three-month ceasefire established by regional leaders.

"The resumption of fighting between FARDC and M23 violates directives agreed by the 11 member states of the ICGLR who are working to restore much needed peace in the Eastern DRC," said Mushikiwabo in a statement.

"This violence close to our border has direct repercussions on us - we have already seen civilians injured today from stray bullets on Rwandan territory as well as renewed influx of Congolese refugees. We do not want any further casualties."

Mushikiwabo added: "The violent activities of the FARDC, M23 and other armed groups in DRC must stop because they continue to jeopardise ongoing regional efforts to bring about lasting peace and security in Eastern DRC. We look forward to the findings of the ICGLR Joint Verification Mechanism that is already on the ground and Joint Intelligence Fusion Centre on this situation and hope that this will facilitate immediate containment."

The expanded Joint Verification Mechanism was previously a bilateral arrangement between Rwanda and DRC designed to verify allegations against either side that was enlarged in September to include representatives from all the ICGLR member states.

Meanwhile, officials on Rwanda's border areas said today that more than 2,500 refugees have fled into Rwanda in the last 24 hours alone. More than 90% of them are women and children - carrying anything they could bring along.

These latest arrivals add on to more than 80,000 Congolese refugees in different camps in Rwanda.

Reports from Goma, capital of North Kivu province, where thousands of UN troops (MONUSCO) are based, say the area has descended into chaos as uncertainty reigns over the city. Some reports say the M23 rebels are between 20-30km from Goma, to the north.

All day, each side has been blaming the other for starting the latest fighting. The battle also comes a day after the United States and UN imposed sanctions on M23 leader Sultan Makenga, who was recently promoted to General and the group changed its name to Congolese Revolutionary Army (ARC).

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