About 30,000 people have fled their homes in Democratic Republic of the Congo since Thursday to seek safety in neighboring Uganda.
Many say they ran for their lives after a group of rebels started terrorizing their villages.
“Families streamed across a bridge over a river near the border, clutching belongings. Some carried firewood over their heads, many brought livestock and women held small babies,” according to aljazeera.com.
Al-Jazeera’s Malcolm Webb, reporting from the Ugandan side of the border on Friday, said people were so desperate to escape that some ignored the bridge and waded through the river.
“We heard rumors there were rebels coming, but we did nothing,” Evaketi Tibalumanya, a Congolese refugee, said, holding one of her nine children in her lap. “Then they came by surprise at night. They caught a person and killed him. We escaped death because we ran away.”
The Ugandan military said the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan rebel group that was driven across the border into the dense jungle of the DRC after a violent campaign in the late 1990s, overran the town of Kamangu on Thursday.
They briefly occupied the town and although they have since left, people are still crossing into Uganda for fear of the rebels, Ugandan military spokesman Paddy Ankunda said. Ugandan troops have been sent to reinforce the border.
According to the Wall Street Journal:
“The group says it is fighting to install an Islamic state in Uganda. Ugandan troops along the border are on full alert and are sharing intelligence with their Congolese counterparts to prevent ADF from infiltrating the oil region, like it did in 2007, Mr. Ankunda added.
“At least 3.5 billion barrels of oil have been discovered on the Ugandan side of the Lake Albertine basin since 2006, but similar activities on the Congolese side have been hampered due to insecurity.
“‘We reserve the right under the U.N. guidelines to execute hot pursuit inside Congo, but we have not made that decision yet,’ he added.
“The U.N.-sponsored Radio Okapi reported Friday that the Congolese army attacked ADF rebel positions around 40 kilometers north of Beni Thursday, sparking a refugee influx. The rebels have been regrouping and raiding civilians for supplies in recent months, according to aid and security officials.
“‘We are reliably informed that the ADF has renewed ties with the al-Shabab terrorists,’ Mr. Ankunda said, adding that the rebel group has been receiving training from the al-Shabab in the assembling of improvised explosive devices.
The ADF couldn’t be reached for a comment. ”