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Congo Army Takes Control of Mbuzi Hill From M23 Rebels

Radio Okapi - November 4, 2013
Colonel Mamadou Ndala and the FARDC have been welcomed by the population after liberating towns
Col. Mamadou Ndala and the FARDC have been welcomed by the population after liberating towns | Enlarge
DR Congo’s army took control of the hill of Mbuzi on Monday, one of the last positions still being held by the M23 rebels, who have been entrenched on three hills near the borders with Rwanda and Uganda since they lost their last stronghold of Bunagana.

Fighting continued since the morning, despite the announcement of a unilateral cease-fire by the M23 rebels and a call for restraint from the international community.

The spokesman of the Congolese army (FARDC) in North Kivu, Colonel Hamuli, told Radio Okapi that fighting for the recovery of Mbuzi was severe.

“The enemy was dislodged after about three days of fighting,”  he said.

At about 12 am local time, a group of Congolese soldiers stationed in Ntamugenga started singing in joy after receiving a radio message that their comrades had reached the crest of the hill of Mbuzi and they were moving to the top.

Mbuzi is one of three hills located  about 2,000 meters above sea level where some M23 rebels are still holed up since the fall of the town of Bunagana last Wednesday.

The army has “completely conquered the entire mountain of Mbuzi,” a senior Congolese army official who requested anonymity told the AFP news agency.

The Congolese army considers the hill of Mbuzi as “very strategic.” It gives a view of the hills of Chanzu and Runyonyi still being held by the rebels.

Early in the morning, three shells launched by the M23 rebels from the hill of Chanzu killed six people and injured ten civilians in the neighborhoods of Karambo and Masoro, forcing the residents of Bunagana to flee to Uganda. Another shell fell int0 Uganda but did there were no victims.

Other shells fell in the town of Tchengerero, about 4 km from Bunagana. Military sources indicate that a woman and a man were killed.

On Sunday, the president of the political arm of the M23, Bertrand Bisimwa, ordered his troops to “immediately cease hostilities against the FARDC.” He gave the order as  the Congolese army was shelling the last bastions where 200 to 300 rebels are still holed up.
In a statement released on Monday, Congolese government spokesman Lambert Mende said that the “M23 must make a clear and unambiguous announcement that it has ended the armed rebellion that it began 20 months ago in North Kivu.”

“What is expected is not a cease-fire, it is the end of all military activities by the M23,“ the statement said.

On Monday, the envoys of the United Nations, the European Union, the African Union and the United States to the Great Lakes region “urged the M23 to end its rebellion as already agreed.” They also asked the government of the DRC to “refrain from any military action at this stage.”

In a statement, they said they had taken note of the announcement by the M23 to end hostilities and consider it as a first and essential step towards peace.

They urged the rebel group and the Congolese government to continue their commitment to the political process leading to a final agreement and the principle guaranteeing the disarmament and demobilization of the M23.

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