Fresh fighting erupted on Wednesday in DR Congo’s troubled east between army troops and the M23 rebel group after a week of relative calm, local sources said.
“The army attacked all the M23 positions in Musongati, Tchanzu and Runyoni” that the rebels took last week, Damien Seburazane, a representative of civil society groups, told AFP.
Colonel Muhindo Lwanzo, the chief aide to the territory’s military administrator, said the rebels had retreated from the strategic hill of Bugusa close to the highway linking the city of Goma to the Ugandan border, “before the army arrived in the area.”
The fighting has been taking place in Rutshuru territory in North Kivu province — the epicenter of a resurgence by a group that was dormant for several years.
The M23 was born among former members of a Congolese Tutsi militia that was once supported by Rwanda and Uganda.
The rebels had been incorporated in the Congolese army under a peace deal signed on March 23, 2009.
In 2012, they mutinied, saying the deal had not been upheld and named their group the March 23 (M23) Movement.
Becoming one of the scores of armed groups that roam eastern DR Congo, the M23 briefly seized the city of Goma before being defeated and forced out of the country.
After its defeat, the M23 eventually signed an accord with Kinshasa that included provisions for its fighters to reintegrate into civilian society.
But the group has again accused the government of reneging on the deal and resumed fighting last year.
On March 28, the M23 moved out of strongholds in the high hills to attack army positions in Rutshuru.
After two days of fighting in which tens of thousands of villagers fled, the M23 declared what it called a unilateral ceasefire, saying it sought a “peaceful settlement in the crisis with the government.”
But the army has dispatched reinforcements to the region and fearful local people are refusing to return to their homes.
Last week, a helicopter with the UN peacekeeping mission crashed while on reconnaissance over the area, killing eight peacekeepers. The cause is being investigated.