GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo (Reuters) - Clashes between Congolese troops and supporters of a renegade colonel in Congo’s eastern city of Bukavu killed seven people on Sunday before he surrendered and turned himself in to U.N. peacekeepers, the army said.
Democratic Republic of Congo army spokesman for South Kivu province, Dieudonne Kasereka, said clashes had started after police came to disarm Colonel Abbas Kayonga, who was sacked on Thursday from his post overseeing anti-fraud efforts in local mines.
Kayonga, a former rebel from a group that had been disarmed and integrated into the Congolese military, gave himself up at the local base for the U.N. mission to Congo.
“He has just surrendered with 17 people at the base of the mission,” Kasereka said by telephone. Two army soldiers and three of Kanyonga’s bodyguards were killed in the fighting and two civilians were killed by stray bullets, he said.
Seventeen members of Kanyonga’s force surrendered to U.N. troops and nine others were captured by the army, Kasereka said, adding that soldiers found about a dozen heavy weapons at Kanyonga’s house.
Security has been deteriorating across Congo since the end of last year, when President Joseph Kabila refused to step down despite his mandate expiring.
Surging militia violence in the east, which has for decades been a tinderbox of ethnic rivalries fueled by the region’s mineral wealth, and in the formerly peaceful central Kasai region, have raised fears the country could slip back to the multi-faceted civil wars of the turn of the century.
Those wars killed hundreds of thousands directly in violence while millions of others are thought to have died from of hunger and disease.
South Kivu has rich deposits of gold, tin and coltan, used in mobile phones, which have long helped finance rebel groups and army officers.
The national electoral commission was expected to announce a date for the election to replace Kabila later on Sunday. Last month, it said the election cannot take place until April 2019, raising fears of an escalation in militia violence and civil disturbances.
U.S. envoy Nikki Haley said during a visit to meet with Kabila last month that the vote must happen in 2018 or it will lose international support.
Writing by Tim Cocks; Editing by Jeremy Gaunt