M23 continues to gain ground in volatile east DR Congo

DR Congo's mineral-rich east has been the scene of violence for 30 years by armed groups.


The M23 militia group continued to gain ground in the war-torn east of DR Congo, with more towns falling into the hands of the rebels, a source told AFP Sunday.

Kinshasa accuses Rwanda of backing the Tutsi-led M23 rebel group which has seized swathes of eastern DR Congo in an ongoing offensive launched in 2021 — something Kigali denies.

On Sunday the M23 (March 23 Movement) moved into the town of Kirumba, in North Kivu province, which has been rocked by violence since 2021 when the group resumed its armed campaign in the region.

Kirumba is the biggest town in the south of the Lubero territory, where the group has been advancing, and a big commercial centre with more than 120,000 residents.

“We regret that the large entity (the town) has since yesterday evening been in the hands of the M23,” a local official, who did not wish to be named, told AFP on Sunday.

He said the group is now heading north from the town.

On Saturday M23 seized the strategic town of Kanyabayonga, as other surrounding areas also fell into the hands of the rebels.

Kanyabayonga is home to more than 60,000 people and tens of thousands of people have fled there in recent months, driven from their homes by the advance of the rebels.

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The town is considered a pathway to Butembo and Beni in the north, strongholds of the Nande tribe and major commercial centres.

It is in the Lubero territory, the fourth territory in the North Kivu province that the group has entered after Rutshuru, Nyiragongo and Masisi.

President Felix Tshisekedi held a meeting of DR Congo’s defence council on Saturday.

During a speech to mark the country’s independence day, Tshisekedi said “clear and firm instructions have been given for the safeguarding of the territorial integrity of our country”, without giving more details.

Other towns near Kanyabayonga have also been seized by M23, according to officials and security sources.

DR Congo’s mineral-rich east has been the scene of violence for 30 years by armed groups, both local and foreign-based, going back to regional wars of the 1990s.

The United Nations Joint Human Rights Office said in its monthly report on Friday that fighting in the area was causing many civilians to be displaced.

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