More Congo refugees flee amid heavy gunfire

 A Congolese refugee woman talks to her children taking shelter at Bunagana town after an afternoon downpour yesterday.  PHOTO / ROBERT MUHEREZA

What you need to know:

  • The shooting, which started at about midday to 2pm, forced Congolese on the eastern side to flee into Bunagana town of Uganda. Businesses on the Ugandan side also closed.

Heavy gunfire yesterday resumed on day two of the renewed fighting between suspected M23 rebels and Congolese army at the Bunagana border town on the DR Congo side.

The shooting, which started at about midday to 2pm, forced Congolese on the eastern side to flee into Bunagana town of Uganda. Businesses on the Ugandan side also closed.

As the fighting ensued, more than 100 Uganda Peoples Defence Forces (UPDF) soldiers swung into action to stop the rebels from spilling into Uganda.

A Congolese army officer was shot and taken to a health facility in Kisoro town.

An hour into the gunfire, a downpour started, prompting a ceasefire. The refugees in Uganda are now estimated to be about 15,000 up from 13,000.

The army spokesperson, Brig Gen Felix Kulayigye, said there was an attack on a military detach on the DR Congo side.

“It’’s true there was an attack on a detach on the other side near the Uganda-Congo border. On whether they have overrun it or not, I am not aware but it is located about half a kilometre away. The UPDF is on standby and we are in charge,”  Gen Kulayigye said.

“The UPDF heavy deployment is aimed at defending our territory because when there is fighting across, you cannot just sit in your house. We are on standby and in case of anything, we shall defend our territory,” he added.

Daily Monitor has since learnt that Dott Services, a company contracted to construct the Bunagana-Goma road, withdrew their road equipment from DRC side to Uganda on Monday.

The Kisoro Resident District Commissioner, Mr Peter Mugisha, yesterday confirmed the development.

He said the Ugandan security received intelligence of a planned destruction of the road equipment by the fighting rebels.

“We received intelligence information that the fighting Congolese rebels were planning to destroy the road property of Dott Services. We immediately asked the management of Dott services to withdraw it and it is currently being guarded by the Ugandan security personnel,” Mr Mugisha said.

“It seems the road being constructed is a problem to these rebels,” he added.

Mr Mugisha also said the renewed fighting prompted him to ask the residents of Bunagana Town on the Uganda side to relocate to a safer place.

 “Because the fighting is still intense and close to the border line, the district security team has asked residents at Bunagana town to keep a distance off the main border for their safety,” he said.

“Although the gunfire started mid morning, hundreds of Congolese nationals who crossed into Uganda on Monday, refused to be taken to Nyakabande refugee transit camp in Kisoro. They claimed they wanted to be close to the situation and return home in case there is a cease fire,”  the RDC said.

Sources privy to the fighting yesterday said at least 10 suspected M23 rebels had been captured.

School closes as leaders ask for help

Mr Emmanuel Mwunvaneza, the Kisoro education officer, said they have temporarily closed Bunagana Islamic Primary School in Bunagana to accommodate the Congolese refugees. “If the situation does not normalise in one week, the pupils will be relocated to neighbouring schools,”  he said.

The LC3 chairman of Bunagana Town Council, Mr Ismail Ndayambanje, appealed to the government to provide mobile toilets and clean drinking water for the refugees as they prepare to take them to Nyakabande. “There is need for immediate establishment of first aid facilities at Bunagana border post to provide health relief to both the fleeing Congolese refugees and Ugandans at the border that are being traumatised by this situation,” Mr Mwunvaneza said.