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Rwanda: DR Congo bombed our territory

A Congolese Armed Forces tank drives through the city following the sound of shell fire and gunshots in Goma, the major eastern city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo on November 19, 2012. (AFP PHOTO/PHIL MOORE)

GISENYI/ADDIS ABABA/UNITED NATIONS: The Democratic Republic of Congo’s army “deliberately bombed Rwanda,” Kigali’s army said Monday amid renewed fighting between DR Congo troops and a rebel group that Kinshasa accuses its neighbor of backing.

The DR Congo army “has deliberately this evening bombed Rwanda using T55 tanks and mortar bombs,” General Joseph Nzabamwita told AFP, saying the assault had targeted the area around the airport in Gisenyi, a town on the two countries’ border.

Nzabamwita said the DR Congo army had also fired anti-aircraft missiles at nearby Mount Rubavu and that three civilians had been injured and evacuated to Rubavu Hospital.

“Rwanda is exercising restraint as of now ... We are concentrating on evacuating the affected population as we continue to assess the situation,” Nzabamwita said.

Rebel group M23 launched a new offensive in eastern DR Congo over the weekend that took them to the doorstep of the key city of Goma. The rebels say they plan to fight the government in Kinshasa “until it falls” unless it starts direct talks with them within the next 24 hours and demilitarizes Goma and the city’s airport, but their ultimatum was swiftly rejected by Kinshasa.

DR Congo residents from Goma who had crossed into Rwanda and were still in touch with Goma by phone said the M23 was fighting the DR Congo Republican Guard in Goma while national army troops were busy looting.

A European expatriate in Himbi, a residential district of Goma away from the city center, said his part of town was calm but confirmed “fighting is under way in the town center.”

The African Union “strongly condemned” the offensive by M23 and asked the group to “immediately and unconditionally” put an end to it.

AU leader Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma decried violence targeted against the civilian population and urged that “every effort be made to ensure unimpeded humanitarian access.”

The United Nations has said the M23, whose members are ethnic Tutsis, are being supported by neighboring Rwanda and Uganda, charges both countries deny.

Dlamini-Zuma also asked AU special representative Boubacar Gaoussou Diarra to visit the region to seek a solution to the conflict.

Meanwhile, France’s U.N. ambassador said France will Monday introduce a U.N. Security Council resolution seeking greater international sanctions against M23 rebels.

Ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters “M23 has shown total disrespect to what the Security Council has said.” The council agreed a statement Saturday which demanded a halt to the fighting.

Araud added the resolution would deal with the involvement of other countries in the conflict.

The French envoy said he hoped for a fast vote on the resolution, which could come Wednesday when the 15-nation is scheduled to discuss DR Congo.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on November 20, 2012, on page 11.

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