Congo conflict spills over into Rwanda
Rwanda, which the U.N. accuses of backing the rebels in the neighboring nation of Congo, blamed the Congolese military for the shelling of its territory, saying it was done with the intention of dragging them into the conflict.
Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said a projectile fired by Congolese forces at 9:45 a.m. killed a woman and seriously injured her 2-month old baby in a market in Rubavu town, located 3 kilometers (2 miles) from the Congolese border.
"We have remained restrained for as long as we can but this provocation can no longer be tolerated. We have the capacity to determine who fired at us and will not hesitate to defend our territory. Rwanda has a responsibility to protect its population," Mushikiwabo said. She said a second projectile landed at 11:20 a.m. in Rubavu, injuring one person, and that eight landed at nearby Busasamana village 10 minutes later.
Goma, a city of 1 million located on the Rwandan border, briefly fell to the M23 rebels last year, whose ranks are swollen with undercover Rwandan soldiers, according to repeated reports by the United Nations Group of Experts. The soldiers from Rwanda join the M23 in small groups, hiking across footpaths into Congo. Rwanda has also supplied them with arms and sophisticated equipment, including night vision goggles, the report said.
That brings to 13 the number of people killed in Goma by shelling from rebel positions north of the city in just over a week, ever since the Congolese army backed by United Nations troops went on the offensive against the M23 rebels.
Paluku Kavunga, a resident of Goma, said he had seen the latest victim of the shelling: "I saw the body torn into pieces of a boy who was 16 years old and who was killed last night," he said. "This morning I heard another two detonations not far from Goma and I also saw four helicopters from the United Nations who were flying over the city of Goma."
The fighting in recent days has been among the most intense in the past year, and comes after the United Nations Security Council in March authorized the creation of a special intervention brigade which, unlike the other 17,000 peacekeepers stationed in this vast nation, have a mandate allowing them to go on the offensive against the M23 rebel group. The brigade, made up of soldiers from Tanzania and South Africa, was created in the wake of the criticism following the fall of Goma to the rebels last year.
Reached by telephone, M23 President Bertrand Bisimwa said that the fighting had lasted until 11 p.m. on Wednesday, and resumed at 4 a.m. Thursday. He said the U.N. troops are mixed in with the Congolese soldiers.
Pikkie Greeff, the national secretary of the South African National Defense Union, a military union which represents some of the soldiers fighting in Congo, said that South African Special Forces snipers have been "taking out" rebels manning machine gun posts, barriers and other positions. He also said the South African and Tanzanian troops are launching attacks from the air and hitting the rebels with artillery shells. As the fight intensifies "the possibilities of casualties are very high ... and we see the possibility that soldiers might die in combat," he said.
Congo, a nation the size of Western Europe, has been in a perpetual state of crisis for almost two decades. Even before the creation of the M23 in 2012, its forest-covered hills were crawling with other rebel groups, ethnic militias and renegade units of the regular army. The latest flare-up is causing people to flee from the very refugee camps that became their temporary homes in previous conflicts.
"Things are really bad when people are being forced to run away from displacement camps," said Frances Charles, the Goma-based advocacy director for international aid group World Vision, who was reached by telephone. "The DRC (Democratic Republic of Congo) level of emergency is so much worse than anywhere else. What we now take as 'normal' would be considered a catastrophe anywhere else. For us a good day is, for another country, the biggest catastrophe they have ever seen."
Jason Straziuso contributed from Nairobi, Kenya. Associated Press writers Rukmini Callimachi in Dakar, Senegal, Rodney Muhumuza in Johannesburg and Peter J. Spielmann in New York also contributed to this report.
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
EAC leaders commission Berth 19 at Mombasa Port
In SummaryBerth 19
Wednesday, August 28, 2013
Joy for Mombasa as new-look port opens
- The port currently has a capacity to handle 250,000 20-foot containers a year. The new berth, the deepest and widest yet, will increase this by 200,000 to 450,000 a year — just a half of regional demand of 900,000 containers.
- The government is committed to the Lamu Port-South Sudan Ethiopia Transport Corridor (Lapsset), which will accelerate social and economic development of the region.
- On the Lapsset corridor, he assured the governments of Ethiopia and South Sudan that his government was committed to the project that would accelerate social and economic development of the region.
Rwanda has repeatedly denied charges that it backs the M23 rebels, who occupied the city of Goma in eastern DR Congo for 10 days last November.
But as fresh fighting flared in the resource-rich region, assistant UN secretary general Edmond Mulet told the Security Council that Rwandan soldiers had assisted the fighters, according to diplomats.
On Thursday, government forces backed by UN troops shelled rebels near Goma.
Artillery fire could be heard around Kibati north of Goma, the capital of the turbulent North Kivu province, where the DR Congo army and a newly-formed UN intervention brigade have been battling M23 rebels for a week.
The UN brigade has been given the first ever mandate by the UN Security Council to launch offensive peacekeeping operations against armed groups.
As tensions ran high along the border, a Rwandan woman was killed and her baby injured in what Kigali alleged was "deliberate" cross-border shelling by the DR Congo army, the FARDC.
Mulet, however, said UN forces had witnessed M23 rebels firing artillery from into neighbouring Rwanda, according to the diplomats.
"MONUSCO has not witnessed any shelling by the FARDC into Rwanda. These are areas where FARDC are not present," Mulet was quoted as saying.
UN leader Ban Ki-moon had telephoned Rwanda's President Paul Kagame to urge "restraint" over the mounting tensions in eastern DR Congo, Mulet told the closed Security Council meeting, according to diplomats.
His briefing is set to ignite new controversy over external backing for the rebels who have been battling the DR Congo government around the key eastern city of Goma for the past 18 months.
A UN soldier from Tanzania was killed in the fighting on Wednesday, and three South African soldiers have been hurt in the clashes.
The M23 rebels have emerged as one of the most formidable forces operating in the DR Congo's east. They accuse the Kinshasa government of reneging on a 2009 peace pact and a deal to hold direct talks, and have threatened to attack Goma again.
Rwanda -- a temporary Security Council member -- has blocked a bid to impose UN sanctions on two M23 leaders as well as a council press statement condemning the death of the Tanzanian peacekeeper, diplomats said.
Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo issued a furious statement condemning the DR Congo army, accused of firing on Rwanda and supporting Hutu rebels involved in the Rwandan genocide of 1994.
"We have remained restrained for as long as we can but this provocation can no longer be tolerated. We have the capacity to determine who fired at us and will not hesitate to defend our territory. Rwanda has a responsibility to protect its population," she said.
Western military sources who asked not to be named said that the latest clashes could be a prelude to a full-on assault by the army and UN troops. They have an unprecedented mandate to take the offensive against the armed movements long active in the mineral-rich but impoverished Kivu region.
The two eastern Kivu provinces, North and South, have been chronically unstable since two wars wracked the vast country between 1996 and 2003, drawing in armies from neighbouring and southern African countries, who fought in part over access to vast mineral wealth.
All flights to Goma, a city of a million people, have been suspended since the outlying airport is vulnerable, said a source in MONUSCO, the UN mission in the country.
The UN intervention force is using attack helicopters and mortars in the Kibati hills, while firing on other rebel positions with heavy artillery, according to MONUSCO spokesman Madnodje Mounoubai.
UN-deployed South African snipers have also reported killing six M23 rebels.
Four shells fell early Wednesday night on Goma, two of them striking the area where the airport lies east of the city, but nobody could say who fired them. Residents said shellfire killed one person and wounded about 15 others in the north of the city.
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Burundi and South Sudan join new EAC partnership
- Tanzania’s Jakaya Kikwete did not attend the summit. When contacted, his spokesman Salva Rweyemama told the Nation that the Tanzanian leader was not invited to the Mombasa meeting.
Thursday, August 29, 2013
Kenya, Uganda and Rwanda agree joint visa to promote tourism
- Commerce and Tourism PS Mohamed Ibrahim visa will facilitate and ease international arrivals to partner states.
- Dr Ibrahim: As an East Africa regional air travel hub, Kenya has embarked on an expansion process of its key airports.
- Kenya Utalii College principal Kenneth Ombongi has been elected the UNWTO Vice President of the Affiliate Members Board in charge of Africa region
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