The army of the Democratic Republic of Congo says fighting has resumed between government forces and the March 23 movement (M23) rebels in the eastern province of North Kivu. Congolese army spokesman Colonel Olivier Hamuli said on Monday that Congo’s forces attacked M23 positions north of the flashpoint city of Goma, the capital of North Kivu, The Associated Press reported. Monday clashes broke out after a three-day lull in the fighting between the two sides. There were no immediate reports of any casualties. The latest round of fighting between the Congolese armed forces and M23 rebels began on July 14. Hundreds of people have been forced to flee their homes since then. Human Rights Watch said on Monday that M23 rebels have summarily executed at least 44 people and raped at least 61 women and girls since March 2013 in the country’s east. The report also accused Rwanda of backing the abusive M23 forces.
“Not only is Rwanda allowing its territory to be used by the abusive M23 to get recruits and equipment, but the Rwandan military is still directly supporting the M23,” said Daniel Bekele, Africa director at Human Rights Watch.“This support is sustaining an armed group responsible for numerous killings, rapes and other serious abuses,” he added. The M23 rebels seized Goma on November 20, 2012 after UN peacekeepers gave up the battle for the frontier city, which is home to about one million people. The rebels withdrew from the city on December 1 under a ceasefire accord. Several armed groups, including the M23 rebels, are active in the eastern Congo and are fighting for control of the country’s vast mineral resources, such as gold, the main tin ore cassiterite, and coltan (columbite-tantalite), which is used to make many electronic devices, including cell phones. The M23 rebels defected from the Congolese army in April 2012 in protest over alleged mistreatment in the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC). They had previously been integrated into the Congolese army under a peace deal signed in 2009. Since early May 2012, more than three million people have fled their homes in the eastern Congo. About 2.5 million have resettled in Congo, but some 500,000 have crossed into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda. Congo has faced numerous problems over the past few decades, such as grinding poverty, crumbling infrastructure, and a war in the east of the country that has dragged on since 1998 and left over 5.5 million people dead. MN/AS