KINSHASA, (Xinhua): At least 51 rebels of the March 23 movement (M23) were killed in the ongoing clash in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), after the government reported 120 of its members dead, according to a local source.
Fighting continued Tuesday between the government forces and M23 rebels since breaking out on Sunday, but this time around the town of Kanyaruchinya, about 15 km from Goma, the capital of North Kivu province.
“During today’s fighting, 51 fighters of the M23 were killed and one M23 officer was arrested,” one of the civil society source in town told Xinhua on Tuesday, adding that among the 51, 15 were wearing Rwandan army uniforms and “were clearly identified as being people of Rwandan origin.”
DR Congo accuses neighboring Rwanda of supporting the M23, while the latter denies the charges.
The civil society source also reported that the DR Congo Armed Forces (FARDC) lost five soldiers in the battle.
The government had previously said that more than 120 M23 fighters and 10 FARDC soldiers were dead on Sunday and Monday in the clash over the town of Mutaho, 12 km from Goma.
The FARDC commander in North Kivu, Col. Mamadou Mbala, told Xinhua, “Our objective is to push away the M23 criminals and put the town of Goma out of danger.”
Meanwhile, the M23 accused the UN Mission for Stabilization of Congo (MONUSCO) of being the cause of resumption of hostility in North Kivu province.
“The behavior of MONUSCO of allowing fighting to occur around camps of the displaced persons is a contradiction with the mandate of this UN mission which is supposed to ensure protection of the civilian population,” the M23 said in a statement seen by Xinhua on Tuesday.
The rebels also blamed the UN mission for allowing FARDC soldiers and the fighters of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) to use installations near Kanyaruchinya to launch attacks against the M23, hence placing the lives of the displaced in danger.
“MONUSCO and the coalition of FARDC-FDLR will be held responsible of anything that will occur on our fellow citizens who are displaced and who are living in this camp due to this unfortunate war that was caused by the same coalition,” the statement said.
The FDLR is linked to the 1994 massacre in Rwanda, whose Tutsi- led government says DR Congo has repeatedly used the Rwandan Hutu rebels against the Congolese Tutsi rebellion in North Kivu.
On May 20, the two sides fought in the same locality, leaving 15 rebels dead and 21 others injured, while on the side of FARDC, four soldiers were killed and six others injured, according to government spokesman Lambert Mende.
This is the first confrontation between FARDC and the M23 since the reopening of the Kampala talks after the May 20-22 flare.
The M23 emerged in April 2012, comprising rebellious soldiers who had been rebels and later integrated into FARDC, citing the government’s failure to honor a peace deal signed on March 23, 2009.
The rebel movement advanced quickly in large swaths of North Kivu before taking Goma in November 2011. After 10 days of occupation of the town, the rebels pulled out under the pressure of the 11 countries of the Great Lakes region to pave the way for talks.
The M23 group was largely weakened in a recent power struggle between the political and military factions.
Editor: Fu Peng