In a volatile region of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (EAC), at least two UPDF soldiers found themselves under attack in an ambush by rebels. The incident took place as the UPDF convoy was waylaid by insurgents at Burahi along the Bunagana-Rutshuru road.
The army spokesperson, Brig Felix Kulayigye, confirmed the incident and expressed the seriousness of the situation. He revealed that the attack occurred around 10:00 am, with two UPDF soldiers being shot in the head by the rebels.
These injured soldiers were admitted in critical condition at the UPDF field hospital in Bunagana, with bullets still lodged in their heads.
For better medical care, the wounded UPDF soldiers were later transferred to the Kisoro Regional Referral hospital. The UPDF has initiated an investigation into the identities of the attackers, suspecting the involvement of M23 rebels in the ambush.
A source within the UPDF, speaking anonymously, noted that the UPDF is co-located with M23 rebels in Bunagana, Rutshuru, and Kiwanja.
They are considered one of the most active militia groups in the region. However, Brig Felix Kulayigye refuted the claim that M23 was behind the ambush, asserting, “They are not co-located with us. We are occupying areas they vacated.”
Tensions in the area have escalated due to intense fighting, leading to a precarious situation for the UPDF. East African leaders deployed the East African Regional Force (EACRF) earlier this year to facilitate the disarmament and cantonment of militia groups operating in eastern DRC. The troop-contributing countries include Burundi, South Sudan, Kenya, and Uganda.
Upon the deployment of EACRF, M23 initially handed over some of its territories. However, the DRC government claimed that M23 rebels later reclaimed some of the areas they previously controlled.
Brig Felix Kulayigye emphasized that UPDF soldiers responded with fire as soon as they came under attack by the rebels. He stated, “Of course, we responded to the attack, and the rebels, who were about six in number in a banana plantation, fled. When fired upon, we will fire back.”
He also made it clear that the UPDF possesses the capacity to deal with anyone who attacks them, sending a strong message to potential adversaries.
The situation in the region is further complicated by the geopolitical dynamics. Kinshasa has accused M23 rebels of being backed by Rwanda, while Kigali has accused Congolese armed forces of supporting the FDLR in attacks against Rwanda.
The UPDF finds itself in a challenging position, with potential confrontations that could undermine relations with either Rwanda or the DRC.
The recent dislodging of M23 rebels from Masisi by the Wazalendo forces has added another layer of complexity to an already fragile and complex battlefront.