By Spy Uganda
Mineral exports from eastern Democratic Republic of Congo through Uganda have been stalled after authorities closed the key transit border point of Bunagana following days of militia violence, said Shafique Ssekandi, a Ugandan District Commissioner.
Bunagana is located 60km (37 miles) northeast of Goma, a city of nearly two million that also serves as a hub for international aid organisations and the United Nations peacekeeping mission, which is known by its French acronym MONUSCO.
The outpost, a transit route for minerals including tin and tantalum, a rare-earths metal used in the aerospace and electronics industry, has been a scene of heavy combat following renewed fighting between Congo’s United Nations-backed troops and the rebel group known as M23.
Ugandan authorities have shuttered the border point, the latest setback for tin supplies from DRC, Africa’s No.1 producer of the soldering metal.
“The border crossing is closed,” the district commissioner said. “No one is allowed to cross from Congo including traders due to security reasons,” he added citing heavy gun fire by M23 at the border.
M23 rose to prominence more than a decade ago when its fighters seized Goma, the largest city in DRC’s east, which sits along the border with Rwanda.
Earlier this year the group appeared to make a comeback, launching an offensive against the DRC military after saying Kinshasa had failed to live up to its decade-long promises.
The latest fighting has led to more than 30,000 Congolese asylum seekers and 137 DRC soldiers crossing into neighbouring Uganda on Monday, Shaffiq Sekandi said.
“They are all over, the streets are full, others have gone to churches, they are under trees, everywhere. It’s a really desperate situation,” he said.