20 November 2012

Rwanda: DRC Directs Fire At Rwanda As M23 Closes in On Goma

Rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo have seized a military airport in Goma, the main city in the country's mineral-rich east, after several ... ( Resource: DR Congo Rebels Seize Goma Military Airport )

The Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FRADC) yesterday directed fire towards Rwandan territory, killing two and injuring several others in Rubavu district.

According to the Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) spokesperson, Brig Gen Joseph Nzabamwita, the DRC government has admitted to violating Rwanda's sovereignty.

"The central Government of the DRC has admitted, apologised and vowed to punish the soldiers who intentionally killed our people," Nzabamwita said yesterday.

He added that the RDF did not retaliate because it was not presumed to be the best option to solve a military conflict.

"We cannot counter attack our neighbours with firearms because they already have a military conflict going on in their country," the RDF spokesperson said, adding that Rwanda is mostly concerned with evacuating the affected residents and securing the assets of its nationals.

Nzabamwita, however, added: "We consider this as a provocative action because we have lately been falsely accused of supporting rebel groups in their country."

Five of the injured, including one woman and two children were still admitted at Gisenyi Hospital.

According to Rubavu District Mayor, Sheikh Hassan Bahame, Mbugangari village of Gisenyi Sector was hit hardest and by press time bullets were still landing on Rwandan soil near the communication masts at Rubavu hill.

The Mayor warned residents against converging in large numbers to avoid further injuries.

"If you gather in one place, it is very easy for the attackers to direct the bullets towards you," Mayor Bahame said in a statement that was also broadcast on the community radio in Rubavu.

This is the second time in a period of a week that Rwandans are injured by bullets from DRC.

Last Thursday, three were injured and evacuated to Gisenyi Hospital for medical treatment, after being hit by stray bullets when renewed fighting broke out.

In a telephone interview yesterday, M23 spokesperson Jean Marie Vianney Kazarama, said that his force was ready to fight back resiliently as the attacks from the DRC army intensify.

Meanwhile, an unknown number of Rwandan nationals are thought to have been abducted in the Congolese border town of Goma.

Residents and local leaders in Rubavu district say some people who usually go to Goma for business have gone missing for about three days now.

"We have reports that some people have not been able to find their relatives ever since the renewed fighting began and we urge Rwandans to avoid crossing over to Goma," Bahame said.

"It is not possible to estimate the number of people who have not yet returned because some of them use their usual identification cards to cross over and they cannot be tracked in our data base," an Immigration officer at the main border (grand barrier) told The New Times.

He said that the harassment of Rwandans and other Kinyarwanda speaking Congolese has resumed as M23 rebels push towards Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu.

Sounds of heavy weapons were heard yesterday near the centre of Goma town, suggesting that the rebels were quickly closing in the Town.

Close to 500 displaced people are currently at Nkamira transit centre in Rwanda, where they crossed after fighting resumed a few kilometres from Goma airport.

The M23 rebel group is made up of soldiers from a now-defunct rebel army, the National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), a group made up primarily of former members of FARDC.

This is heaviest fighting since April 2012 when the rebels mutinied from the army, after the Congolese government violated a 2009 peace agreement which saw CNDP disband and their fighters joined the national army of Congo

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