Residents who fled from their villages in eastern DR Congo last week following clashes between the Congolese national army, FARDC and M23 rebels have started returning.
HumAngle understands that the residents, who are still scared, started coming back on Thursday, March 31.
The clashes were violent on Monday and Tuesday March 29 in Rutshuru territory at the Uganda border and culminated in the crash of a United Nations helicopter resulting in the deaths of eight soldiers of the Blue Helmets, six of whom were Pakistanis.
According to the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), at least 9,000 households with about 45,000 persons fled from the zones where the clashes were taking place within the Jomba tribal group. Several thousand crossed the border to Uganda in search of safety.
“With relative calm returning since Wednesday, March 30, a timid return of inhabitants is being seen notably in the border village of Bunagana,” Theophile Nteba, traditional ruler of Gikoro said.
“Some of the persons are returning only to take some of their basic belongings with the intention of returning to Uganda immediately afterwards.”
The chief said movement has resumed on the road leading to the border in Rutshuru centre noting, however, that the M23 rebels remain in their positions around the Bugusa parish, less than seven kilometres from Bunagana.
“The rebels are currently occupying Bugusa, Tchanzu, Runyoni, Kanyoni, Kariba and other villages,” Damien Sebuzanane revealed, adding that “the people are afraid of a resumption of clashes between the army and the M23 rebels. Four civilians were killed and five others wounded at the beginning of the week.”
Lwanzo Muhindo, Director of Cabinet of the military administrator of Rutshuru territory said “The situation is also calm in Rutshuru and the population has started returning in small groups.”
Moise Nzaya, the leader of Rwanguba, also confirmed the timid return of the population but said “we are disturbed because there is a military deployment towards where the M23 are positioned and we don’t know what will happen any time soon.”
The M23 which is a former Congolese Tutsi rebel group was defeated in 2013 by the FARDC but reappeared towards the end of 2021 blaming the DR Congo government for not having respected its engagements to demobilise its combatants.
The FARDC on Monday, March 28, accused Rwanda of supporting the M23, an accusation the Rwandan government denied as false.
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