Goma - Hundreds of people were forced to flee as fierce clashes broke out between government troops and rebel forces in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, an army commander said on Sunday.
“Violent clashes involving heavy weapons are ongoing close to Mweso (Nord-Kivu province) between soldiers who have left the army and loyalist forces,” an army commander, who was participating in the combat, told reporters by telephone.
He did not give details on injuries or deaths but added that “about a hundred people have fled Mweso in the direction of another village, Kitschanga”, located about 20km away.
Over a dozen high-ranking officers who were former rebels from the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP), had quit the army in the beginning of April, bringing with them hundreds of men in the unstable provinces of Nord and Sud-Kivu.
Most of the men have since been reintegrated into the national army, the army source said.
The defecting soldiers were all close to former CNDP chief of staff Jean-Bosco Ntaganda, who had led his men to join the national army in the beginning of 2009 after a peace deal with Kinshasa.
The International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant in 2006 for Ntaganda, whose nickname is “Terminator”, for charges of using child soldiers to fight for him in his militia group.
Kinshasa has refused to arrest him, due to the peace deal. - Sapa-AFP