“We are military men. When the time is up, if the mutineers don’t surrender, we are going to pursue operations against them,” Colonel Sylvain Ekenge, the military spokesperson in the unstable Nord-Kivu and Sud-Kivu provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo, told Agence France-Presse (AFP) on Monday.
The five-day ultimatum was issued on Saturday.
Overnight on Friday, the armed forces (FARDC) suspended their attacks in the eastern Nord-Kivu province, stating that the situation in the volatile Masisi and Rutshuru territories was under control.
Heavy fighting broke out on April 29 between the army and renegade troops, held to be part of a former militia led by General Jean Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted for war crimes.
The army said it stopped the attacks after retaking Mushaki, a town in Masisi near a farm where Ntaganda, former chief of staff of the rebel National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), said he was based.
The governor of Nord-Kivu on Wednesday accused Ntaganda of being behind the fighting, a charge which he denied.
His CNDP forces joined the regular army under a peace deal in 2009, but mutineers broke the pact last month, citing unpaid salaries among other grievances.
According to the mutineers, Ntaganda was trying to reach the Rutshuru region on the border with Rwanda and Uganda, where some of his men have reportedly fallen back, including Colonel Sultani Makenga, who was his deputy in the CNDP militia.
“There are troops who have been sent as reinforcements in Rutshuru since yesterday [Sunday], awaiting orders from the hierarchy for the next operations,” an FARDC colonel told AFP.
“There is a large number of soldiers at Bunagana and we can see heavy weapons installed in the hills overlooking Bunagana,” a resident of the area told AFP.
Like many other Bunagana residents, this man leaves the town every nightfall for neighbouring Uganda for fear of violence, returning home the next morning.
Also known by the nickname Terminator, Ntaganda was in 2006 indicted by the International Criminal Court for using child soldiers.
The Kinshasa government has declined to arrest him, arguing that his cooperation is crucial to stabilising a country devastated by two successive wars between 1996 and 2003. — AFP