There is tension in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo after fresh fighting erupted between government forces and the M23 rebels.
The fighting started on Wednesday night in the areas of Kibati and Kanyaruchinya near the North Kivu provincial city of Goma.
The Congolese government forces with the backing of the Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) attacked the M23 positions, but the rebels retaliated responding with heavy shelling that lasted for close to an hour.
M23 civilian spokesperson Amani Kabashe told local media that the positions held by the rebels were first attacked by the Congolese government forces at 7:45pm local time and the fighting later on died down before it resumed today morning.
In Goma, residents are on tension fearing that the rebels may advance on the city as they have always promised to do so if the government continues to attack their positions.
The renewal of clashes comes barely weeks after the DRC government sent an elite unit of commandos to the country’s east to reinforce its regular troops in the fight against the M23 rebels.
Kabashe says the M23 rebels are not planning to advance on Goma and revealed that they are wondering why the Kabila forces are fighting alongside the FDLR rebels, whose leaders are accused masterminding the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
Close to a million people died during the genocide. The presence of FDLR in Congo has been at the centre debate since 1994. It was part of the reason that Rwanda and Uganda invaded the then Zaire and ended the 30-year rule of Mobutu Sese Seko in May 1997. The two countries later disagreed with Mobutu’s successor Laurent Desire Kabila with Rwanda accusing him of arming the FDLR.
Both countries have been accused by the UN of arming M23, a claim they dismiss.
Kabashe now claims that the Congolese government is using the FDLR with the intention of gaining the ground belonging to M23 so that it can be used to launch an attack on neighboring Rwanda.
Kabashe further revealed that despite the call by the United Nations Security Council for Kabila to return to the peace talks his government is still adamant.
On the issue of the casualties, Kabashe revealed that it is unfortunate that those who have died and those who are yet to die are Congolese who would be very useful to the future of DRC.
According to Colonel Vianney Kazarama, the M23 military spokesperson, the rebels have up to now managed to hold strongly on their positions saying they cannot accept to lose any ground.
Congolese Army spokesperson Olivier Hamuli confirmed the fighting but declined to give more details.
At the time of filing this story, fighting was still ongoing.