DR Congo claims Rwanda wanted to 'occupy' Bunagana Town in rebel attack

Soldiers on patrol in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on April 3, 2022. PHOTO | AFP

What you need to know:

  • In its statement, the Congolese army said Rwanda aimed to "occupy" Bunagana in order to suffocate the provincial capital Goma and raise pressure on the government.
  • Rwanda has repeatedly denied backing the rebel group. 

DR Congo's army accused Rwanda of supporting M23 rebel attacks on Sunday near the eastern border town of Bunagana, where heavy all-day fighting claimed the lives of two soldiers. 

The Democratic Republic of Congo has blamed a recent resurgence of M23 violence on neighbouring Rwanda, causing relations between the two countries to plummet. 

Rwanda has repeatedly denied backing the rebel group. 

On Sunday, the Congolese army said M23 rebels had attacked positions near Bunagana and several other areas of North Kivu province, "supported by soldiers and artillery from the Rwandan army".

Two soldiers were killed in the fighting, according to a statement, which added that several enemy fighters were also killed, without specifying a figure. 

Local officials and army officers told AFP earlier on Sunday that M23 rebels had launched a morning assault on Bunagana that the army later repelled. 

M23 spokesman Willy Ngoma also said that "very violent" clashes were continuing near the town on Sunday evening. 

Rebels had attacked positions near the town, which borders Uganda, in November 2021 and again in March.

In its statement, the Congolese army said Rwanda aimed to "occupy" Bunagana in order to suffocate the provincial capital Goma and raise pressure on the government.

Relations between the DRC and Rwanda have been strained since the mass arrival in eastern DRC of Rwandan Hutus accused of slaughtering Tutsis during the 1994 Rwanda genocide. 

The M23, a primarily Congolese Tutsi militia, is one of more than 120 armed groups active in eastern DRC.

It briefly captured Goma in 2012 but a joint offensive by UN troops and the Congolese army quelled the rebellion. 

M23 resumed fighting late last year after accusing the Congolese government of failing to respect a 2009 agreement under which the army was to incorporate its fighters.

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