UN condemns M23 rebel offensive on DRC town as hundreds flee

The M23 rebels have seized areas of eastern DRC’s North Kivu province in a rapid onslaught since May.

UN Congo
UN peacekeepers from India are seen on board a tank guarding the airport in Goma, eastern DRC, November 23, 2012 [File: Dai Kurokawa/EPA]

The United Nations peacekeeping mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has condemned an offensive by M23 rebels in the east of the country that forced 450 people, including women and children, to seek refuge around its base in Kitshanga town.

“The M23 must cease all hostility and withdraw from occupied areas, in accordance with the roadmap set out in the Luanda mini-summit,” the mission, known by its acronym MONUSCO, said on Twitter on Thursday.

The Kitshanga attack is a new offensive by rebels who have seized areas of eastern DRC’s North Kivu province in a rapid onslaught since May that threatened the provincial capital, Goma.

The armed uprising has inflamed regional tensions, with DRC accusing neighbour Rwanda of backing and sponsoring the Tutsi-led rebellion. United Nations experts and the European Union have accused Rwanda of backing the M23.

The government of Rwanda has denied any involvement.

Regional leaders brokered an agreement in November under which the rebels were meant to withdraw from recently seized positions by January 15 as part of attempts to end the fighting that has displaced at least 450,000 people.

But a UN internal report said the rebels were flouting the ceasefire.

Two witnesses who fled Kitshanga and joined the throng of refugees at the MONUSCO base said the rebels had taken control of the town.

A spokesman for the DRC government and the army did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The M23 said in a statement that it was obliged to intervene to protect Tutsis in Kitshanga and other areas.

Source: Reuters