Masisi (DRC) : the city of Kitshanga fell into the hands of the M23

Masisi (DRC) : the city of Kitshanga fell into the hands of the M23

Since Thursday evening, M23 rebels have taken control of the city of Kitshanga located some 80 kilometers northwest of the city of Goma, capital of the province of North Kivu (eastern DRC). The spokesperson for the Sokola 2 operation in charge of dismantling armed groups in the provinces of Ituri and North Kivu indicates that “the FARDC withdrew to avoid the worst for the civilian population”. INFO SOS Médias Burundi

The city that fell into the hands of the M23 is
in Masisi territory.

“For three days, intense fighting has opposed FARDC (Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo) in collaboration with armed groups to rebels of the M23. The city of Kitshanga finally fell into the hands of the M23 this Thursday evening. No FARDC soldiers were present at the scene. They
all, like their supporters left since this Thursday”, say witnesses.

The FARDC spokesperson in North Kivu claims that the army withdrew from its posts to avoid fighting in a locality populated by civilians.

He directly accuses Rwanda of supporting the M23.

“It’s been three days that the Rwandan army and its various allies have been trying to impose a maneuver on us in the middle of the city of Kitshanga. The FARDC as a national army, professional and respectful of international humanitarian rights, has tactically withdrawn its troops outside of the city of Kitshanga. We want to attract these genocidaires in depth. And thus avoid the worst for our populations of Kitshanga”, explained Colonel Ndjike Kaiko.

According to witnesses, M23 rebels are moving towards other localities, leaving behind them the city already conquered, which frightens the population.

“The situation is perplexing because the army could launch offensives. But the M23 knows it and asks civilians to take food and leave the city. It is difficult for several thousand Congolese who are already fleeing the locality”, indicates Toby Kahangu, chairperson of the civil society of the chieftaincy of Bashali in Kitshanga.

He specifies that those displaced by war in the area now number around 60,000 people. Some are hosted by the MONUSCO (United Nations Organization Mission in the DRC) base in Kitshanga. Others fled to Mweso or to neighboring villages.

The road linking Kitshanga and Sake is cut, according to witnesses. It is the only one that could facilitate transport between the city of Goma and the territory of Masisi.

This Thursday, the M23 explained that it was forced to resume hostilities to “stop an ongoing genocide against Congolese Tutsis in eastern Congo”.

The former Tutsi rebellion which took up arms again at the end of 2021 accusing Congolese authorities of not having respected its commitments on the reintegration of its fighters is made up of Congolese Tutsis. Congolese authorities remain convinced that it enjoys the support of Rwanda, which the Rwandan government continues to brush aside.

Rwanda, for its part, has always accused FARDC (Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo) of “collaborating with the genocidal FDLR” with the aim of “destabilizing its territory”.

But Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi, who on several occasions has instructed his Rwandan counterpart Paul Kagame to “support the rebels”, believes that “the FDLR no longer represents a threat to Rwanda”, designating them as “a residual force reduced to banditry”.

Since mid-June 2022, M23 rebels have controlled several localities in the province of North Kivu, including Bunagana, the border town with Uganda. The rebel group had agreed to observe a ceasefire recently and to comply with the agreements of Luanda (Angola) and Nairobi (Kenya). These agreements concern in particular the withdrawal of rebels of the March 23 movement from areas under its occupation. The rebellion accuses the regular army of having violated the ceasefire agreement “by attacking our posts and killing innocent civilians”.

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