Rwanda: March 14, 2003


: The Burundian government reported a series of firefights in eastern Burundi. A major clash occurred in Nyabitsinda. In the firefight that occurred on March 14 the Burundian Army reported two of its soldiers died and 13 FDD rebels were killed. On March 13 another battle occurred in the same area. The Burundian Army said three of its troops were killed and seven wounded in that battle. There were no reports on FDD casualties.

March 15 2003: Rwanda has issued an ultimatum for the Ugandan army to withdraw from Bunia in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) immediately or face the Rwanda Patriotic Army (RPA). In a strongly worded statement, Rwanda accused Uganda and the DRC government of deploying their troops, along with FAC, Ex-FAR and Interahamwe militias, into areas in north Kivu that threatening Rwandan positions. The statement continues with the dire threat that "should the international community fail to reverse this development promptly and decisively, Rwanda would be compelled to assume responsibility and take appropriate measures to protect its people."

The Rwanda statement was released as Interahamwe and ex-FAR reoccupied some of the defensive positions previously held by the Rwandan army, bringing these militias closer to Rwanda's borders. Rwanda has apparently mobilized to re-enter the DR Congo and massed a large army in Goma, ready to flush out Mai Mai rebels and ex-FAR from the area. Rwanda alleges that the DRC (with Ugandan help) has deployed about 300 troops and that the Ugandan army had moved tanks, APCs and heavy artillery in the Ituri region. 

Ugandan Defense Minister Ruth Nankabirwa told the press that the Ugandan Army was not about to leave Bunia and rejected US ambassador to the DRC's call for the Uganda Army to withdraw. In turn, the Ugandan Army has ordered the Union of Patriotic Congolese (UPC) rebels to withdraw from all airports in Ituri region considered a strategic threat to Uganda. The Ugandan reinforcements sent to Bunia were attacked by Lendu militias marching to the area.

Rwanda has reportedly deployed troops at six locations near the Ugandan border over the last two weeks and some of the units were observed with heavy artillery. Uganda has beefed up its force in Congo to 5,000 men, with three battalions (2,000 men) around Bunia alone. - Adam Geibel


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