Thousands of Congolese nationals who had fled to Uganda on Monday for safety have started returning home ‘‘after receiving information that the fragile security situation had relatively normalised.’’
Some of the refugees who were seen crossing back to their country at Bunagana on Tuesday morning told a Daily Monitor reporter that they had had no food since trekking into Uganda.
“I am happy that the situation has normalised and now I am going back to my country,” said Claude Mbaswa Murhola.
Mr Murhola and a fellow countryman appealed to the Democratic Republic of Congo government to step-up security to avoid a repeat of deadly attacks by M23 rebels that have killed hundreds of people in the past.
Suspected insurgents attacked Congolese army positions in Rutshuru territory in troubled North Kivu province near the Uganda border on Sunday night forcing residents to flee.
The attacks were blamed on M23 rebels, a Congolese group largely defeated after launching a rebellion almost a decade ago.
The assailants overran the position of a paramilitary guard, stationed in the area to protect the Virunga National Park, a renowned conservation site.
Local officials and the Red Cross in the Kisoro region of Uganda said roughly 5,000 people had poured across the border and the area was "overwhelmed".
The escapees included older people, women and children, and they had no access to basic amenities like water or shelter.
The Kisoro Resident District Commissioner, Mr Peter Mugisha on Tuesday said that he received information from his Congolese counterpart that the situation had normalised.
“We are going to hold a security meeting to discuss the proper management of the situation as the Congolese refugees return to their country,” Mr Mugisha said.
Meanwhile, the Rwanda Defence Force has rejected claims of involvement in the activities of the M23 rebels.
In a statement on Tuesday, RDF said: “The ex-M23 group in question did not seek refuge in Rwanda during their retreat from DRC in 2013, but has been based in Uganda, from where this attack originated, and to where the armed group retreated,” the RDF statement reads.
M23 rebels had seized large swathes of territory in 2012 before they were chased by Congolese and United Nations forces into Uganda and Rwanda in 2013.
-Additional reporting by The EastAfrican.