Tense calm in Congo border region with Uganda after clashes
KAMPALA, Uganda - The situation in the border area between the Democratic Republic of Congo and Uganda was reported as calm on Saturday, after clashes between a rebel group and the Congolese army previously killed a UN peacekeeper.
The M23 rebel group, led by renegade general Bosco Ntaganda - wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes - has consolidated its control of the border town of Bunagana, but there has been no fighting for more than 24 hours, an official said.
"The rebels are in control of Bunagana but the situation is calm. There has been no fighting since Friday morning. We have increased security vigilance along the border and screening all the refugees," Ugandan military spokesman, Capt. Peter Mugisha told dpa.
More than 600 Congolese government soldiers on Thursday fled battle lines and sought sanctuary in neighboring Uganda after being overrun by M23 rebels. On Friday an Indian soldier with the United Nations peacekeeping force was killed in clashes.
Meanwhile, Uganda is tightening security along the frontier, and screening the influx of refugees, Mugisha said.
"The refugees are still trickling in but not in large numbers. We have not got any fleeing government soldiers since the other 600 who moved in on Thursday. The UNHCR and other agencies are documenting the refugees," Mugisha said by telephone.
Fighting between government troops and the M23 forces - former rebels who were integrated into the national army in 2009 but then defected this year - had worsened in recent days in the Central African nation, two-thirds the size of Western Europe.
Uganda's Red Cross said Friday that thousands of people have been pouring across the border in the past two days to escape violence. They join tens of thousands of Congolese refugees already in the country.
A damning UN report released last month accuses Rwanda of arming the M23 rebels, who have ties to ethnic Tutsi militias.
The mostly Tutsi government in Kigali has vehemently denied the charges and called for ending the UN's peacekeeping mission in the DR Congo - the largest such force in the world, with some 20,000 members.
The DR Congo - a massive, mineral-rich, but impoverished nation with 71 million citizens - ended its civil war in 2003, though militias still operate in the eastern regions, setting off sporadic conflicts.
More than 5 million people are estimated to have died because of the wars in Congo since the 1990s, mostly from disease.