The no man’s land at the Bunagana border has been declared a no-go zone for locals and refugees by security officials in Kisoro district.
The development followed heavy fighting between M23 rebels and the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) that erupted in the hills of Murujinga and Mukiharo-Bunagana, three kilometres to the main Uganda-DRC border in the wee hours of Monday.
Thousands of Congolese nationals from Mukinga, Rubona, and Tcheya villages were forced to flee to Uganda and Rutchuru town in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
However, on Tuesday evening, security officials chased all the refugees and locals who were loitering in no man’s land.
According to Elly Maate the Kigezi Region Police Spokesperson, 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.
He argues that it will be difficult for security teams to identify innocent people from rebels if access is not denied.
The outgoing Kisoro Resident District Commissioner Captain Peter Mugisha says that the area is being used as a planning space for Ugandan security teams to make sure that the border remains peaceful.
However, Mugisha 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.
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 the Office 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.
By Wednesday morning, the situation in Bunagana was calm, though gunfire can still be heard in DRC.