By John B. Thawite
Over 500 Congolese nationals have fled into the western Uganda district of Bundibugyo following armed clashes back home.
The clashes broke out at dawn on Christmas day when a group of Uganda rebels operating in eastern Congo, the Allied Democratic Front (ADF), attacked Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) unit in Kamango, near the Uganda/D.R Congo border.
Confirming the incident, the Uganda People’s Defence Forces (UPDF) 2nd Division spokesperson, Major Ronald Kakurungu, said the ADF attacked FARDC at around 5.00am local time.
“By this evening (Xmas day), so far 500 Congolese refugees had fled to Busunga border point,” Major Kakurungu told New Vision on phone.
He said the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) was already moving in to relocate the Congolese from Bubukwanga.
A Congolese source based in Kasindi, told New Vision that the attackers, whose numbers could not immediately be established, struck and looted assorted weapons from the Congolese before retreating back into the eastern DRC Rwenzori jungles.
The attacks come hardly five months after similar clashes between the ADF and FARDC that saw over 30,000 Congolese flee to Uganda for their lives in July.
“We are taking precaution and put our troops on extra alert and are working with police to screen the refugees lest we are infiltrated by wrong elements disguising as refugees,” Kakurungu said on Christmas day.
He said the refugees were being carefully screened as the security agencies along the Rwenzori region were monitoring the movements along the common border to stem any possible enemy attack.
The ADF, a Muslims fundamentalist group led by Jamil Mukulu, first attacked Kasese on 13 November 1996, before later spreading to the entire Rwenzori region where they committed various atrocities including the burning of about Uganda Technical College Kicwamba students in their sleep.
In 2001, the UPDF announced that it had defeated the ADF and that the remnants had fled to the DRC, where they have set up hideouts in various places.
From their hideouts, the rebels resorted to survival tactics including attacks on civilian populations, small abductions, petty trade and occasional ambushes on travellers.
“Should the ADF dare us, we are very prepared to deal with them,” Major Kakurungu warned.