Fighting between rebels and government forces in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo continued for a third day Sunday with the government saying its troops recaptured two more towns from M23 rebels.
Information Minister Lambert Mende says the Congolese army, known as the FARDC, is being assisted by the UN Intervention force.
He expressed his government’s regrets over the death of a Tanzanian UN soldier.
Mende said the Congolese army Sunday took control of Kiwanja and the M23 rebel stronghold of Rutshuru, in North Kivu province near the border with Rwanda.
“According to last report, our forces managed to push back the M23 rebels. They managed to recapture totally Kiwanja town, and this afternoon they managed also to recapture Rutshuru Center, that is the capital city of the county from where M23 was firing on FARDC positions as well as civilian populations,” he said.
Mende expressed his government’s regrets for the death of a Tanzanian UN soldier, who the UN said was killed in Kiwanja while protecting the civilian population.
“We are sorry to inform you that a Tanzanian soldier was killed near Kibumba, while fighting these rebels who firing even UN troops,” Mende said.
He reiterated the Congolese government’s demand for the M23 to disarm or face more attacks from FARDC forces.
“We have not changed our position. These rebels must disarm or be ready to face fire from the FARDC because this is our duty and this is the strong obligation that was sent from the international community by the United Nations,” Mende said.
Mende again accused neighbor Rwanda of supporting M23 rebels in the latest fighting. He said this was evident by Rwanda firing on Congolese territory last week.
Rwanda has denied the allegation that it is backing the M23.
Peace talks between the Congolese government and M23 in Kampala, Uganda stalled last week after the rebels demanded an amnesty.
Mende said the Congolese government is interested in seeing a successful conclusion of the peace talks but will not stand by while the M23 continues to attack civilians.
“We are still ready for any conclusion of these long negotiations we have had in Kampala, but we are not ready to stand by and do while these bandits are killing people and even killing international troops. I don’t see how people getting amnesty can be firing on regular troops. They are not credible when they are talking about amnesty,” Mende said.
The M23 Sunday demanded an end to the latest fighting or it would permanently leave the Uganda talks.
Butty interview with Mende