130 dead in DRC army, rebel clashes

Loud blasts rang out north of the flashpoint city of Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, on Monday afternoon, and up to 1 000 people fled towards the city in a cloud of dust.

"Our forces have inflicted very heavy losses on the M23 fighters, 120 have been killed and 12 captured," government spokesperson Lambert Mende said on Monday.

Mende said 10 soldiers had also died in the ongoing clashes between the army and rebels of the M23 group.

The fighting broke out on Sunday outside Goma, the capital of North Kivu province in the volatile east – an area rich in minerals including gold and coltan, a key component in cell phones and other electronic equipment.

Several Congolese army tanks fired at M23 positions on Monday. Mortar fire could also be heard.


The M23 briefly seized Goma late last year before withdrawing under international pressure.

Reinforced positions
Mende said that this time they had attacked army positions supported by Rwandan troops.

"For several weeks the M23 rebels and their Rwandan allies have been reinforcing their positions," he said.

The M23, an armed group launched by Tutsi former soldiers who mutinied from the Congolese army in April 2012, blamed the government for the fighting.

In a statement, it condemned "in the strongest terms the resumption of war initiated by the Congolese government".

The group, which says it is fighting for the full implementation of a peace deal that incorporated an earlier rebel group into the Congolese army, said it was committed to peace talks.

United Nations experts have accused both Rwanda and Uganda of supporting the M23, and US President Barack Obama earlier this month urged the DRC's neighbours "to stop supporting armed groups".

Both countries have denied the charges.

'Intervention brigade'
The UN has its largest peacekeeping mission in the world in DRC, including a new "intervention brigade" created by the Security Council in March to fight armed groups – the first offensive unit ever authorised by the UN.

UN soldiers did not intervene in the recent clashes, Mende said.

In a statement, the UN force in the region Monusco confirmed the use of tanks and heavy artillery.

"Any attempt by the M23 to advance toward Goma will be considered a direct threat to civilians," it warned.

UN peacekeepers were prepared for "any necessary measures, including the use of lethal force", to protect civilians, it added.

Mende said government forces had managed to recapture previously rebel-held positions as the M23 fled. But he declined to confirm reports that some 2 000 soldiers had been deployed in the fighting.

In Rwanda meanwhile, a military spokesperson said two mortar bombs had been "deliberately" fired into the country from DRC on Monday.

The spokesperson blamed the Congolese army and the UN peacekeeping force on the grounds that the bombs were fired from territory they control. The mortars caused no casualties.

Troops
The UN's new intervention brigade of about 3 000 soldiers began arriving in the region in May, heavily armed and with more power to fight renegade forces than ever before.

The troops, drawn in equal numbers from Malawi, South Africa and Tanzania, are joining about 17 000 UN soldiers already deployed in the area with a limited mandate to protect civilians and themselves.

In all, about 30 armed groups are active in the region, where they have lucrative stakes in the illegal mining of diamonds, gold and coltan. These minerals are then exported around the world via neighbouring Burundi, Rwanda and Uganda.

The fighting outside Goma comes after a separate rebel attack in the town of Kamango in the northernmost part of the province sent 55 000 people fleeing to neighbouring Uganda, according to the Red Cross.

Kamango was attacked and briefly occupied Thursday by a Ugandan-led rebel group, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF).

The ADF has been relatively quiet in recent years, but one Western military source said attacks had increased in recent weeks. – AFP

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Phil Moore
Phil Moore works from Los Angeles, CA. Emmy Winning Host. Host of Nick Arcade & You're On @NickelodeonTV; Producer and Writer. Phil Moore has over 1221 followers on Twitter.

Related stories

Human health, animal health and environmental health are inextricably linked

To take care of ourselves, we must take care of the world around us

The coping mechanisms the DRC is putting in place as it faces Ebola, measles and Covid-19

The DRC has systematically gone about strengthening health infrastructure, engaging the community and doing better research

The pandemic has shifted patterns of conflict in Africa

Although the overall rate of conflict has remained steady in Africa during the past 10 weeks of the pandemic, the nature of this is changing in subtle but significant ways

Africa’s ill-resourced healthcare systems need immediate revamping

Now is the time to rewrite a collective script of Africa’s development agenda and the well being of its people

The DRC’s response to Covid-19 must be tailored to local context

Immunisation and other preventative programmes for malaria, cholera, measles and malnutrition, which kill children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, must continue

Crisis, what crisis? How not to handle a pandemic

So far, most countries on the African continent are dealing with Covid-19, but not all leaders are taking the coronavirus pandemic seriously
Advertising

Treasury presents Covid-19 corruption action plan

Reports of corruption, over-pricing and the delivery of sub-standard PPE have become the norm over the past five months as the country grapples with the Covid-19 pandemic

Metro cops, SAPS clash over control

Tensions between the City of Cape Town and the police service over responsibilities mirrors the strain between national and local government
Advertising

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…

The best local and international journalism

handpicked and in your inbox every weekday