DR Congo troops 'flee into Uganda' after rebel clashes

A Congolese government soldier stands guard at a military outpost between Kachiru village and Mbuzi hill, in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, May 25, 2012. The Congolese soldiers are said to have been moved away from the border

Some 600 Congolese soldiers have fled into Uganda, following clashes with rebels who have seized a border town.

The Ugandan military said the fleeing troops had been disarmed.

As the rebels took control of the Democratic Republic of Congo side of the town of Bunagana, an Indian peacekeeper was killed, the UN says.

M23 rebels loyal to Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted for war crimes by the International Criminal Court, took up arms in April.

They defected from the army after pressure increased on the government to arrest Gen Ntaganda, when one of his former colleagues was convicted of recruiting child soldiers by the ICC.

Security sources have told the BBC's Ignatius Bahizi in Uganda that the M23 rebels control a 15km (10 mile) stretch of the border running south from the famous Virunga National Park, home to rare mountain gorillas.

Ugandan army spokesman Capt Peter Mugisa says the 600 Congolese soldiers are in the custody of the Ugandan military. He told the AP news agency they fear being massacred by the rebels if they return.

Troublesome neighbours

map
  • April-June 1994: Genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda
  • June 1994: Paul Kagame's Tutsi rebels take power in Rwanda, Hutu fighters flee into Zaire (DR Congo)
  • Rwanda's army enters eastern Zaire to pursue Hutu fighters
  • 1997: Laurent Kabila's AFDL, backed by Rwanda, takes power in Kinshasa
  • 1998: Rwanda accuses Kabila of not acting against Hutu rebels and tries to topple him, sparking five years of conflict
  • 2003: War officially ends but Hutu and Tutsi militias continue to clash in eastern DR Congo
  • 2008: Tutsi-led CNDP rebels march on North Kivu capital, Goma - 250,000 people flee
  • 2009: Rwanda and DR Congo agree peace deal and CNDP integrated into Congolese army
  • 2012: Mutiny led by former CNDP leader Bosco "Terminator" Ntaganda

Ugandan residents of Bunagana have told the BBC that the Congolese soldiers have been moved to the town of Kisoro, which is about 8km from the border.

Senior M23 official Col Sultani Makenga told the BBC that the rebels had seized the Congolese side of the town early on Friday - information confirmed by residents of the Ugandan side of the town.

"The mutineers took control of the entire town. The entire population and the [Congolese] troops are in Uganda," a police source in the area told the AFP news agency.

Col Makenga said the rebels responded after they were attacked by government troops on Thursday.

Some 200,000 people have fled their homes since April, with about 20,000 crossing the border to Uganda and Rwanda.

A recent UN report has accused Rwanda of backing the rebels - Gen Ntaganda is an ethnic Tutsi, like the majority of Rwanda's leadership.

But Rwanda has vehemently denied the accusations.

Mineral-rich eastern DR Congo has suffered years of fighting since 1994, when more than a million Rwandan ethnic Hutus fled crossed the border following the genocide, in which some 800,000 people, mostly Tutsis, were slaughtered.

Rwanda has twice invaded its much larger neighbour, saying it was trying to take action against Hutu rebels based in DR Congo. Uganda also sent troops into DR Congo during the 1997-2003 conflict.

The current mutiny is being led by fighters from Gen Ntaganda's former rebel group the CNDP, which was integrated into the Congolese national army in 2009 as part of a peace deal.

Known as "the Terminator", Gen Ntaganda has fought for various militias over the years but has told the BBC he has no involvement in the recent army mutiny.

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