BENI, DRC - Authorities in the Democratic Republic of Congo say armed men have crossed into the country from Uganda and set up bases in Beni territory. A local community leader told VOA they may be Congolese rebels, part of the same movement reported to have crossed the Rwandan border into the DRC last week.
An official in Beni territory told VOA he could confirm a report by civil society groups in Beni there has been an incursion of armed men from Uganda entering the territory since last week.
Teddy Kataliko, president of Beni’s civil society group, said the latest information he has is that since April 21, more than 300 men have crossed into the DRC from the Kasese and Bundibugyo districts in Uganda.
He said 280 of these armed men crossed the frontier via the Ruwenzori mountain range and the Kalehaleha locality before arriving at a former base of the Ugandan rebel group ADF, at Mumbiri, where they set up camp.
Another smaller group of armed men has also crossed the Ruwenzori from Uganda via Kalindera, and then headed for the Semliki valley to the south, near the confluence of the Nzelube and Semliki rivers, according to Kataliko.
He suggested they are probably former members of the M23, a rebel movement consisting mainly of Kinyarwanda speakers from Congo and Rwanda that was launched in 2012 and finally driven out of the country in late 2013. He said local witnesses reported the armed men took off their Ugandan uniforms at Mumbiri and entered the forest dressed in civilian clothing.
Another group of about 100 armed men, said by the Congolese government to be Rwandan troops, crossed into the DRC last week from Rwanda, and exchanged fire with Congolese troops in Nyiragongo territory near the North Kivu provincial capital, Goma. One Congolese soldier was lightly wounded.
Rwandan authorities have denied their troops crossed into Congo, with Rwanda’s deputy ambassador to the United Nations describing the allegation as “baloney.”
The governor of North Kivu, Julien Paluku, last Friday linked the incursion to what he said is an attempt by the M23 to relaunch their movement under a new name, the Christian Movement for the Reconstruction of the Congo (MCRC).
The U.N. stabilization mission in Congo has confirmed armed men in military uniform crossed into the country from Rwanda last week.
Local radio reports the Congolese army has deployed combat patrols to the villages in Beni territory where the armed infiltrators were sighted, with orders to defend the country against all foreign forces.