Was he the target of rebel or army fire? No track was excluded, Wednesday, March 30, to explain the crash of a helicopter in which perished the day before eight blue helmets of Monusco, the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). The helicopter crashed while carrying out a reconnaissance mission over an area in the east of the country, in North Kivu, where heavy fighting had opposed the Congolese army to the rebels of the Movement since Monday. March 23 (M23)
The DRC Armed Forces quickly accused the rebels of shooting down the plane. The M23 denied, accusing on the contrary the army of being responsible for the crash. Monusco, which found the debris of the Puma and brought back to its base in Goma the bodies of its blue helmets (six Pakistanis, a Russian and a Serb), does not comment.
But early indications point to a “luminous object”whose nature remains to be determined, who would have reached the helicopter and caused the crash, declared on RFI Khassim Diagne, deputy special representative for protection and operations within MONUSCO. ” I confirm “told AFP Ndèye Khady Lo, deputy spokesperson for the UN mission, while considering “premature” to conclude that it is not “not an accident”. “We are not ruling out any leads”said Mr. Diagne, including that “of an attack on this helicopter”.
Former Tutsi rebellion
Without directly pointing the finger at the rebels, Stéphane Dujarric, spokesman in New York for UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, said that he was “deeply concerned by the resurgence of M23 activities”.
This crash occurred when the Congolese army, after several months of suspicion and decades of relations of mistrust, had just accused Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebellion, even claiming to have captured two Rwandan soldiers in the area of the fighting, in the territory of Rutshuru, bordering Uganda. Kigali strongly denied, assuring that these two men, captured more than a month ago, were not part of its army, and rejecting any support for the rebels.
The M23, also called the “Congolese Revolutionary Army”, comes from a former Congolese Tutsi rebellion once supported by Rwanda and Uganda. Defeated in 2013, he has been talking about him again since November 2021, attacking military positions and reproaching Kinshasa for not having respected commitments on the demobilization of its fighters.
On Wednesday, according to local sources interviewed from Goma, relative calm reigned in the region. The M23 still occupies some of the positions conquered since the night of Sunday to Monday, including Tchanzu and Runyoni, but withdrew from those it occupied on the road linking Goma to Bunagana, on the border with Uganda.
Two officers killed
Some residents who had fled their homes returned to their villages. “We came back to protect our property because thieves are looting our homes”testifies Jean-Paul Mazirane, a resident of the village of Tchengerero: “The M23 is nearby, on a small hill. We are still afraid… But some people are opening their shops so that people can buy salt, soap…” “The M23 rebels looted everything before withdrawing”accused at the end of the day Jackson Gachuki, head of the “group” of Jomba, about ten kilometers from the center of Rutshuru.
Congolese Colonel Honoré Rindugu, commander of the regiment stationed in Bunagana, said there were three rebels dead on Tuesday, and about fifteen others captured on the Ugandan side. The Congolese and Ugandan armies are collaborating in the fight against the M23 in this sector, he assured, as they cooperate further north in the fight against another rebel group, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF). Military authorities in Rutshuru territory acknowledged that two Congolese officers were killed in the fighting.
The eastern DRC has been plagued by violence from numerous armed groups for more than a quarter of a century. The UN mission was created in 1999 in the country under the name Monuc (UN Mission in the DRC), which in 2010 became Monusco (UN Mission for Stabilization in the DRC). Its total workforce is about 17,000 people.
To not miss any African news, subscribe to the newsletter of “World Africa” from this link. Every Saturday at 6 a.m., find a week of news and debates covered by the editorial staff of the “World Africa”.