Business losses stack up as M23 ignore truce

Traders on tricycles cross the border between Rwanda (in the background) and the Democratic Republic of Congo at the Petite Barrière border post in Goma on November 19, 2022. PHOTO/AFP

What you need to know:

  • EAC Heads of States had a mini-summit in the Angolan capital Luanda on Wednesday and in a communique made clear that they “shall authorise use of force to compel [M23 rebels to withdraw].

As the rebel group M23 continued to send mixed signals on a ceasefire call whose ultimatum ended on Friday evening, the business losses continued to stack up at the Ishasha border checkpoint.

The checkpoint— in Nyanga Sub-county, Kanungu District—had been the solitary entry point for cargo trucks en route to Goma City in the DR Congo. This followed the capture of both Bunagana and Busanza in June as well as Kitagoma in October by the M23 rebels.

Bunagana was by presstime one of the areas that Kenyan troops were awaiting clearance to venture into. This was after the ceasefire call—a precondition for dialogue—went unanswered. It has since emerged that the M23 rebels are desirous of meeting Mr Uhuru Kenyatta, the East African Community (EAC) mediator.

The deadlock has left close to 70 Goma-bound cargo trucks grounded at the Ishasha border checkpoint. Mr Gad Ahimbisibwe Rugaaju, the Kanungu Deputy Resident District Commissioner, told Sunday Monitor that the UPDF has been deployed at the checkpoint “to ensure that the abandoned cargo trucks are safe from any form of vandalism.”

“Some of the few truck drivers and turnmen found at the Ishasha trading centre said their colleagues went back to Kampala because all their money for upkeep was exhausted,” Mr Rugaaju further revealed, adding:

“They also told us that they cannot return the cargo trucks to Kampala because it is not accepted under the Uganda Revenue Authority guidelines since they were cleared for Goma city as the final destination.”

One of the operators of the grounded cargo trucks told Sunday Monitor that they have been living in abject conditions.

“We use the cargo truck cabins as our bedrooms,” Mr James Musisi said, adding: “We are waiting for further instructions from our bosses on the next course of action. Life here at the border is not easy for us.”

EAC Heads of States had a mini-summit in the Angolan capital Luanda on Wednesday and in a communique made clear that they “shall authorise use of force to compel [M23 rebels to withdraw]” if the Friday evening ultimatum to lay down arms and allow for dialogue was not met. It remains to be seen what the next course of action will be now that the Friday evening ultimatum was not met by the rebels. 

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