Congolese refugees fleeing fighting between government troops and the March 23 Movement (M23) rebels in Rutshuru territory, North Kivu province, have re-occupied Bunagana market and Bunagana Primary School in Bunagana town council.
Fighting that had been paused for more than two months resumed on Thursday. Refugees camped in Bunagana, Rukundo town councils, Muramba and Nyarubuye sub-counties, and the Nyakabande transit center have returned to Rutshuru.
On Saturday, refugees again fled to Uganda after fighting intensified in Rangira and Shwema in the Jomba Groupement. Around 1:00 a.m. on Sunday, fighting broke out in Ntamugenga Kanyabusore, Charwika, Bugina Mutovu in the Bweza grouping, and Mungo in the Busanza grouping.
Our reporter at the border saw refugees fleeing in thousands to the Ugandan side. Fighting is happening about 10 kilometers from the Uganda-DR Congo border. Other refugees were seen occupying Bunagana market and Bunagana primary school as United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) officials improvised transportation to take them to the Nyakabande transit center.
Kayari Kaberuka, Kisoro District Internal Security Officer, says that so far, about 25,000-30,000 refugees have crossed to Bunagana town council after the situation in Rutshuru became too fragile since Saturday. Kaberuka says that because there were so many of them, the government had no choice but to let them back into Bunagana market and Bunagana primary school as a way to get them to Nyakabande transit center so that they could continue to be organized.
He says that more refugees are still fleeing to Kisoro through porous border areas like Kibaya and Kanombe.
Colodine Maniriho, from Mungo-Rubavu village in Busanza grouping, one of the Congolese refugees found at Kibaya in Rukundo town council, suggests that North Kivu should be added to Uganda so that peace can be restored forever. Maniriho says that the Congolese government has failed to stabilize the region.
Both rebels and government troops are trading counter-accusations about the shelling of civilians. On Sunday, Lieutenant Colonel Njike Kaiko Guillaume, the spokesperson for SOKOLA2 operations, accused M23 rebels of firing 82 mortar bombs at the population and claiming lives.
Njike, however, did not reveal the number of deaths and causalities. He says that the army remains determined to put an end to this enemy once and for all.
Bertrand Bisimwa, the President of the M23 rebels, also issued a statement on Twitter saying that engaging in a new battle is threatening civilians. However, Bisimwa says that Kinshasa must assume the possibility of losing the war.
On Sunday, rebels claimed to have captured Ntamugenga. FARDC is yet to issue a statement.
The Ntamugenga village is strategic for the territory of Rutshuru because it allows easy access to National Road number 2. The rebels use the area to cut off traffic in the city of Goma. By press time, fighting was still ongoing.