Updated: Plane Crash Kills 29 At DR Congo City

 

At least 29 people were killed Sunday when a small plane crashed after takeoff into a densely populated area of the city of Goma in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

A survivor among the 19 people — 17 passengers and two crew members — who were aboard the plane was taken to hospital along with 16 others injured on the ground, the North Kivu regional government said.

“At this stage, 29 bodies have been found in the rubble,” the statement said.

The Busy Bee Dornier-228 smashed into two houses near the airport, the deputy transport minister Jacques Yuma Kipuya said earlier.

The first images from the scene showed smoke billowing above the neighbourhood and the aircraft in flames with local people throwing buckets of water on it.

READ ALSO: A Decade Of Plane Crashes In Residential Areas That Shook The World

A video seen by AFP showed the cabin of the plane still smouldering embedded in the wall of the house.

The aircraft had been headed for the city of Beni, 350 kilometres (220 miles) north of Goma, when it went down after takeoff in the residential area.

Busy Bee airline staff member Heritier Said Mamadou had earlier confirmed that 19 were on board the flight scheduled from Goma around 9:00 am (0700 GMT).

Busy Bee, a recently established company, has three planes serving routes in the North Kivu province.

The pilot “failed in his takeoff,” Nord Kivu governor Carly Nzanzu Kasivita said in a statement.

One of the airline’s maintenance workers at the site, quoted by news site actualite.cd, blamed a “technical problem”.

Among the victims of the Goma crash was a woman who was the coordinator of an association for the defence of women’s rights, Mambo Zawadi, her NGO said.

There were also three civil servants in the housing sector “who were returning to their posts in Butembo and Beni after work sessions that I had organised,” their supervisor Molendo Sakombi said in a statement.

The UN mission deployed in DR Congo, MONUSCO, sent two fire engines to support local rescue services.

Aircraft accidents are common in the vast, conflict-wracked central African country.

Last month an Antonov-72 cargo plane that was providing logistical assistance for a trip by Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi and carrying eight crew and passengers went missing after taking off from Goma.

Troubled Province

Goma is the capital of troubled North Kivu province near the border with Rwanda.

The plane’s destination, Beni, has been the scene of other tragedies in the province plagued with fighting between rival militias. More than 60 civilians have been massacred since October 30.

The failure of the army and police to stop the killings has prompted protests by civilians, the latest one on Friday.

The Nord Kivu governor went to Beni to calm the citizens and on Sunday offered condolences to the families of the victims of the plane crash.

Beni has also been at the epicentre of an Ebola epidemic which so far has killed around 2,200 people in DR Congo in the last year.

AFP

One Dead, 14 Wounded In Clash Near DR Congo Gorilla Sanctuary

 

 

One person was killed and 14 were injured in clashes near a gorilla sanctuary in DR Congo where there has been mounting friction between park guards and local Pygmies, sources said Friday.

The violence occurred near the Kahuzi Biega National Park, a UNESCO heritage site in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo that is a haven for the world’s largest gorilla species.

“A conservation patrol which was pursuing two poachers was ambushed on Wednesday by Pygmies armed with machetes and bows and arrows,” park spokesman Hubert Mulongoy said.

“Thirteen park wardens were wounded in the clash, three of them seriously,” he said. “One of the seriously injured had his fingers severed by a machete.”

Separately, Ntavuna Cizungu, a representative of a Pygmy community that lives on the edge of the park, told AFP that a Pygmy named lwaboshi Simba was shot dead during the confrontation “and died immediately.”

Another Pygmy was injured, he said.

Mulongoy said there had been a “resurgence of tension in the past few days between indigenous people and the park.”

In April, a warden was killed in a clash, the park said, denying that this episode was associated with the death of a Pygmy the previous day.

The Pygmies are angry about being denied access to Kahuzi Biega.

The park says they illegally entered the sanctuary between August and October last year, and have been carrying out acts of “deforestation” since then.

The park wardens are chiefly recruited among former soldiers and police and include a number of Pygmies.

Kahuzi Biega, named after two extinct volcanoes, is the only place in the world where visitors can see eastern lowland gorillas in the wild, the park says on its website.

The 6,000-square-kilometre (2,300-square-mile) haven, created in 1970, is a magnet for well-heeled tourists, providing an important source of revenue for the DRC.

AFP

Congo Arrests Rwandan Former Mayor Wanted For Genocide

rwanda mayorDemocratic Republic of Congo has arrested a former Rwandan mayor accused of orchestrating the killing of tens of thousands of people during the 1994 genocide, Rwanda’s prosecutor general said on Thursday.

Ladislas Ntaganzwa, who headed the commune of Nyakizu in southern Rwanda, was indicted in 1996 and is accused of genocide, direct and public incitement to commit genocide as well as extermination, murder and rape, Prosecutor General Richard Muhumuza said in a statement.

“The National Public Prosecution Authority is pleased to announce the recent arrest of Ladislas Ntaganzwa, one of the last fugitive suspects sought by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda,” Muhumuza said.

The tribunal’s indictment, updated in 2012, accuses Ntaganzwa of plotting to exterminate Rwanda’s Tutsi population and personally ordering the massacre of more than 20,0000 Tutsi civilians in one parish in April 1994.

The United States has offered up to $5 million for information leading to his arrest.

Ntaganzwa was arrested on Sunday in the town of Nyanzale in North Kivu province during an operation against the headquarters of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a Rwandan Hutu militia, said Congo’s army spokesman, Leon Kasonga.

The FDLR is based in eastern Congo. Its leaders include senior figures in the genocide who fled into Congo after overseeing the slaughter of some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus in Rwanda between April and July 1994.

Ntaganzwa is not a member of the FDLR, the group’s spokesman, La Forge Fils Bazeye, told Reuters.

In a statement on Thursday, the U.N. Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals urged Congo to immediately transfer Ntaganzwa to Rwanda for trial.

Muhumuza said in his statement that Rwanda was prepared to prosecute Ntaganzwa before a specialised international crimes chamber of its High Court.

The Tanzania-based International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has convicted 61 people for involvement in the genocide, including leading military and government officials. New cases are expected to be heard by Rwandan courts or a separate tribunal backed by the United Nations.

Kasonga said Ntaganzwa is being held in the eastern city of Goma and would soon be transferred to the capital Kinshasa before any decision was made about extradition.

More than 20 years after the genocide, Rwanda is still pursuing perpetrators at home and internationally.

Ntaganzwa is one of nine high-profile fugitives identified by the tribunal.

 

UN peacekeeper Killed as Congo Army approaches rebel stronghold

A UN peacekeeper has been killed and another injured during a third day of fighting between government forces and rebels in eastern Congo on Sunday, as the army pressed toward the rebel stronghold of Rutshuru.

The UN mission in Congo (MONUSCO) said the Tanzanian peacekeeper was killed during fighting with M23 rebels in the town of Kiwanja, north of the regional capital Goma, the largest city in eastern Congo.

“The soldier died while protecting the people of Kiwanja,” Martin Kobler, the head of MONUSCO, said in a statement. The previous round of clashes between the army and rebels in late August killed at least two Tanzanian peacekeepers.

Following two months of relative calm in the region, fighting flared up on Friday after peace talks in Uganda broke down when M23 pressed for a full amnesty for its leaders. Each side blamed the other for starting the fighting.

President Joseph Kabila, who last week threatened a return to military action, said an unconditional amnesty was not an option.

A Congolese army officer on the front line said the army took Kiwanja and Kalingera from M23 on Sunday, a day after wresting the strategic town of Kibumba near the Rwandan border from the insurgents.

Fighting was continuing at Kiguri, 25 km (15 miles) north of Goma, he said.

The army had also opened a second front to the north of M23 positions and was moving southward to Rutshuru, officers said.

“We are consolidating the zones we have conquered,” army spokesman Colonel Olivier Hamuli told reporters near the front line. “Very soon we will take Rutshuru. Those who disarm, we will accept, the others we will pursue.”

M23 said in a statement on Sunday it had withdrawn its troops from Kiwanja, accusing the army of sending in fighters in civilian clothing to try to draw UN troops into the conflict.

M23 threatened to withdraw its delegation from the stalled peace talks in Kampala unless there was an immediate end to hostilities. It said it would then launch a large-scale counter-offensive.

Tough New Mandate

Congo’s army, supported by a new UN intervention brigade, scored its first victories against the rebel movement, which has been fighting for nearly two years, in late August, forcing the rebels away from Goma.

The UN brigade has a tough new mandate to eliminate armed groups in the eastern provinces, though it has not been involved in the past three days of fighting.

The support of the brigade and the weakening of the rebels has fuelled belief that Congo’s army – notoriously disorganized, undisciplined and under-supplied – could defeat M23.

Army sources told reporters in Goma that M23 had been weakened by desertions, with some 40 rebels taking advantage of a corridor created by the government troops to allow then to flee rebel lines.

M23 began in early 2012 as a mutiny by soldiers demanding the government implement the terms of a 2009 peace deal signed with a previous Rwanda-backed rebel group, many of whose members had been integrated into the army.

UN investigators and the Congolese government have accused Rwanda of supporting M23, charges Rwanda has repeatedly denied.

Army spokesman Hamuli said some M23 fighters had fled towards the Rwandan border in the face of the army advance.

“There are small pockets of M23 resistance in the hills near Rwanda,” he said. “We think Rwanda has to prove its good faith and oblige M23 to disarm, or disarm them itself.”

He refused to discuss the possibility of a return to peace talks in Kampala. “We are soldiers,” he said. “We will continue to do our jobs as soldiers.”

Congo Government Troops Retake Territory Left By Rebels

Congolese government troops have re-occupied eastern towns for the first time in eight months after rebels weakened by an internal power struggle withdrew and turned their weapons on each other.

The advance is the first significant progress by Congo’s army since a series of defeats last year, but raises fears of fresh clashes with M23 fighters who are intent on reclaiming the same areas after peace talks stalled.

Government troops moved into the towns of Rutshuru and Kiwanja on Friday night to protect the population from bandits and armed groups who had taken advantage of the M23 rebel pullout to prey on civilians, a spokesman for the army said.

“Since last night, those areas are under government control. (M23) left those areas and it is for us, the regular forces to take our responsibilities and secure them … against the pillaging, rape and killings,” Colonel Olivier Hamuli told Reuters by telephone.

Hamuli said there were no immediate plans to move against nearby M23 positions but the rebels accused the government of “pure provocation” and said their forces were en route to re-occupy the same zones.

“There is a risk (of clashes) because the government has left its positions and come to provoke us. M23 warns Kinshasa and the international community that anything that happens now is the government’s responsibility,” said Colonel Vianney Kazarama, M23 spokesman.

Eastern Congo has been ravaged by war and banditry for two decades, leaving millions dead through violence and disease. Civilians are regularly caught in the crossfire between armed groups and the country’s notoriously ill-disciplined army.

POWER STRUGGLE

Until internal divisions manifested themselves this week in violent clashes between different factions, M23 controlled vast swathes of territory and last November briefly seized Goma, capital of North Kivu province.

The split reflects a power struggle between the group’s military high command and the renegade general Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for alleged war crimes.

Ntaganda defected from the Congolese army to M23 last April, taking hundreds of fighters with him and helping fuel the eastern rebellion.

In a separate communique late on Friday, M23 said Ntaganda and the movement’s ousted political head were hiding in the dense forests of Virunga National Park after a failed attack on M23 positions.

“Firm and precise instructions have been given to our forces to capture (them) so that they can answer for their acts,” said the communique, signed by M23’s military commander Sultani Makenga.

A spokesman for the faction loyal to Ntaganda, Colonel Seraphin Mirindi, denied they had fled into the forest, saying they were just north of Goma.

He also accused Makenga of planning a deal with the Congolese army, something Kinshasa has repeatedly said it would not consider.

“If they’re going to make an alliance and attack us we will defend ourselves, and we know how to do that, we’re used to it,” he added.

UN condemns DR Congo attack

The UN Security Council has strongly condemned the resumption of rebel attacks in eastern DR Congo.

Meeting in emergency session, the Security Council called for m23 rebels to immediately halt their advance towards the provincial capital, Goma.
It also demanded an end to outside support for the rebels, noting with concern that they were well equipped.

The rebels captured the town of Kibumba yesterday, despite bombardment by UN helicopter gunships.

Julien Paluku the North Kivu governor said the Congolese army retreated because the insurgents were armed with heavy weapons and backed by Rwandan troops.

Kigali denies the allegation but UN experts say they have evidence of Rwandan support for the rebels, and this week asked the Security Council to sanction senior Rwandan officials as a result.