Fighting rages outside Goma

militia_in_eastFresh fighting raged Thursday outside the flashpoint city of Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the M23 rebels and regular army said, blaming each other for the new hostilities.

An army officer said rebels had attacked government-held positions on Wednesday night 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of the capital of North Kivu province, sparking clashes with heavy weaponry that continued into Thursday.


The territory, near the villages of Mutaho and Kibati, has been in government hands since mid-July, he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.


M23 intelligence officer Modeste Bahati confirmed the renewed fighting but blamed the army for starting it by attacking rebel positions around Kibati.


“Our forces are holding their positions,” he told AFP.


The rebels accused the army of wanting to “broaden” an offensive against them.


“The absurd war relaunched by the Congolese government appears to be an outburst of anger after the failure of military-style diplomacy in these past weeks,” the movement’s spokesman Amani Kabasha said in a statement.


Kabasha accused the army of breaching “recent recommendations by the UN Security Council, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, and the SADC (Southern African Development Community) for the resumption of peace talks.”


Both sides said they were not yet able to say how many people had been killed or wounded.


The rebellion by the M23, a movement launched by Tutsi ex-soldiers who mutinied from the army in April 2012, is the latest insurgency to ravage the vast central African country’s mineral-rich but conflict-torn east.

The rebels, estimated to number about 1000, have been active in North Kivu province since May 2012. Founded by members of a previous rebel group integrated into the military under a 2009 peace deal, they left the army because they accused the government of failing to abide by the terms of the agreement.

The M23 occupied Goma – a city of about one million people and the hub around which most of the fighting has revolved for 10 days in November 2012 before withdrawing under international pressure.

The latest bout of fighting, which erupted in mid-July and has flared up periodically ever since, ended an almost two-month truce reached in May when UN chief Ban Ki-moon visited the region. – Sapa/AFP