Kampala, Uganda | STV NEWS | The M23 rebels have warned the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) authorities regarding their announced intention to officially resume activities at the Bunagana border in the war-torn province of North Kivu.
The North Kivu authorities had closed activities at the Bunagana border, which borders the Ugandan district of Kisoro, in June 2022 after the town fell into the hands of M23 rebels following intense fighting with the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC).
They also suspended traffic on the main route connecting the province to Uganda and Goma City (Bunagana-Goma road). The authorities argued that closing the border and the road would prevent the rebels from collecting taxes to fund the war. They also warned that anyone using the road would risk arrest and prosecution for aiding and collaborating with the rebels.
The rebels took control of the border until late 2022 when they withdrew, and the area was taken over by Ugandan troops deployed in Rutshuru territory as part of the East African Community (EAC) Regional Force, following the recommendations of the EAC heads of state summit.
However, civil society leaders in the area continued to claim that the rebels only withdrew their uniformed men, while those in civilian attire continued to man the border. In a statement released on Saturday, Lieutenant General Constant Ndima Kongba, the Governor of North Kivu province, announced the government’s decision to resume activities at the Bunagana border and reopen it.
Ndima asked all relevant stakeholders in the government to be prepared for deployment when instructed to do so. According to Ndima, activities will resume under the military escort of the regional force deployed for peacekeeping in the area. Shortly after Ndima’s statement, M23’s political spokesperson, Lawrence Kanyuka, issued another statement describing the government’s move as an act of provocation.
Despite the presence of troops from Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, and South Sudan deployed in the territories of Masisi, Nyiragongo, and Rutshuru, as per the resolutions of the EAC heads of state summit to occupy positions previously held by the M23 rebels, indicators of fighting have never ceased between the warring parties.
Recent fighting between M23 and the militia coalition under their umbrella, Wazalendo, has been reported. M23 launched a war against the DRC government, specifically targeting the North Kivu province, in March 2022. The DRC government accuses Rwanda of backing M23, although both Rwanda and M23 vehemently deny the allegations. The rebels claim to be fighting against the corrupt leadership in the DRC, citing issues such as corruption, xenophobia, and discrimination.