KINSHASA, July 16 — More than 120 Tutsi rebels have been killed in the latest clash in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), according to the Central African country’s Media Minister and government spokesman Lambert Mende.
The government forces FARDC also captured 12 others in the fighting with the rebel March 23 movement (M23), Mende told reporters in the capital Kinshasa on Monday.
“This is not the final death toll from the fighting, but until now, FARDC has responded with bravery and efficacy to the aggression on our national territory by inflicting the heaviest loss of lives to the rebels,” Mende said.
“The dramatic developments did not surprise us at all because for several weeks, the M23 rebels and their Rwandan allies were reinforcing their positions around Kibati, not far from Mutaho, causing fresh displacement of the population who feared the escalation that was witnessed yesterday (Sunday),” the minister added.
Since the M23 emerged in April 2012, the rebellion has been a source of tension between DR Congo and Rwanda, with the Congolese government accusing its Rwandan counterpart of supporting the rebel group and the latter denying the charges.
Mende also blamed the M23 for causing the current fighting by first firing at FARDC, leaving 10 of them dead.
“The United Nations Mission for Stabilization of Congo (MONUSCO) also confirmed this incident,” he said.
The spokesman express concern about further violence “given the behavior of Rwanda.”
“Rwanda had violated the Addis Ababa peace agreement that was signed in February by deciding to give political asylum to some members of the M23,” he said.
The M23 rebels have controlled several villages and localities in North Kivu province since May 2012. They set up their capital in Bunagana situated near the Congolese border with Uganda, not far from Rwanda.
A UN report says M23 fighters have been receiving support from Uganda and Rwanda, which have both denied the allegation.
In November 2012, following intense fighting between FARDC and the M23, the latter occupied the town of Goma for 10 days and left the town following the start of Kampala talks.