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DRC Army Takes Over North Kivu Town from Rebels

  • Peter Clottey

M23 rebel fighters rest at their defense position in Karambi, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in north Kivu province, near the border with Uganda, July 12, 2012.
The spokesman for the U.N. Peacekeeping Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) says that country’s national army has re-taken Walikale, a town in the North Kivu Province, from a rebel group.

Madnodje Mounoubai said the DRC’s national army, known by its French acronym FARDC, has also taken over some other towns in the restive North Kivu province.

“The FARDC [soldiers] have retaken the locality of Walikale. It’s a unilateral attack by the FARDC, so they did not need any support from MONUSCO. They did that on their own because two days ago, Ria Mutumbuki, which is a militia group, had taken control of this town,” said Mounoubai.

“It looks like the counteroffensive by FARDC has been successful," he added. "They have not only retaken Walikale, but also other localities [including] the locality of Jingala, which is 40 kilometers from Walikale center.”

He also said that the mutinous M23 rebel group appears to have partially withdrawn from some of the areas they recently captured. Mounoubai explains MONUSCO’s ongoing operation in the DRC.

“We have three types of operations; a unilateral one by MONUSCO to protect civilians. We have also a joint military operation with the FARDC to control certain localities, but also the FARDC on their own can launch a unilateral operation such as the one against the Ria Mutumbuki,” said Mounoubai.

Some residents in the restive North Kivu province have expressed concern that there are senior officials of the national army who seem to support and coordinate with the M23 rebels. Mounoubai is not surprised by the concerns of the residents.

“You have to understand that the leadership of the M23, most used to be FARDC officers [before] they broke away from the national army… so of course one would think that they are still in contact with [some in] the national armed forces,” said Mounoubai.

He said attacks by armed groups often leave hundreds of thousands of unarmed civilians, largely mothers and their children, displaced.

“Since M23 launched its attacks on several localities, of course we have an increased number of internally displaced people. I would say that the last fighting has displaced more than 50,000 more people, adding to the over two million that we already have in the region,” he said.

Mounoubai also said MONUSCO is working with its humanitarian partners to provide much needed aid to them.

“We have the UN humanitarian agency [OCHA], which is charge of coordinating the assistance to the internally displaced,” said Mounoubai.

“What we are doing as MONUSCO, is to provide security to the humanitarian groups so that they will be in a position to deliver assistance,” he said.