Security officials in Kisoro district have declared Bunagana border no man’s land in Kisoro district, western Uganda a no go zone for both locals and fleeing refugees.
The declaration was made amidst heavy fighting between M23 rebels and the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) that started in the hills of Murujinga and Mukiharo-Bunagana, three kilometres to the main Uganda-DRC border in the wee hours of Monday.
The fighting has forced thousands of Congolese nationals from Mukinga, Rubona, and Tcheya villages to flee to Uganda and Rutchuru town in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). On Tuesday evening, security officials chased all the refugees and locals who were loitering in no man’s land.
Kigezi Region police spokesperson Elly Maate says that with the current intense situation in the area, security decided to chase residents from the no man’s land so that they remain in gazetted places where they can get proper protection. Maate says that it will be difficult for security teams to identify between innocent people and rebels if access is not denied.
Captain Peter Mugisha, the outgoing Kisoro resident district commissioner says that the area is now being used as a planning space for Ugandan security teams to make sure that the border remains peaceful.
Mugisha however declined to comment about the arrested suspected M23 rebels, death, and causalities but refuted claims that UPDF soldiers had crossed and helped FARDC soldiers to repel the rebels. He said that Ugandan forces are only patrolling the border while on Ugandan soil.
Bunagana town council mayor Ismail Ndayambaje says that business owners were forced to close and run about seven kilometres away from the border due to heavy fighting that resumed on Tuesday.
“The war which is taking place in Congo has affected most of the business people in Bunagana town council because all the shops are now closed and people have even run away. My people around here in Bunagana, they have gone to something like 7kms from here. Me, as mayor I agree with security because what had made these people to flee from their country has not yet been normalised. With time they will be allowed back in,” Ndayambaje said.
Meanwhile, Bahati Safari Izake, a FARDC soldier is nursing injuries at Kisoro hospital after he was shot in the left thigh during heavy fighting with M23 rebels in the hills of Murujinga and Mukiharo-Bunagana.
On Tuesday evening, the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) also announced on Twitter that it has lost a helicopter in a village controlled by the M23.
Amadou Ba, the head of strategic communication and public information within this UN mission based in Goma says that MONUSCO lost contact with one of its helicopters deployed in Chanzu hill, in Rutshuru territory. He says that the helicopter had eight soldiers on board.
FARDC alleges that the helicopter was shot down by the M23 rebels while in the middle of a mission to assess population movements in North Kivu.