The rebels accuse the government of “preparing a genocide” in the provinces of Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu
27 Jan. (EUROPA PRESS) –
The rebel group March 23 Movement (M23) has taken control of the Congolese city of Kitshanga, in the province of North Kivu (east), in recent hours, after several days of clashes with the Army of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
“Yes, we control Kitshanga and its neighbourhoods,” Willy Ngoma, the group’s military spokesman, told the British BBC television shortly after the Congolese radio station Radio Okapi reported the rebels’ entry into the town.
Sources quoted by the station have indicated that part of the population has moved to the base of the United Nations Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO) in search of safety, in the midst of the recent advances of the M23 due to the resurgence of fighting in the zone.
The Congolese authorities, who have denounced that the M23 did not proceed to complete its withdrawal on the dates set at the Luanda mini-summit and launched operations in the area, have not yet commented on the situation in Kitshanga.
For its part, MONUSCO condemned on Thursday “the military offensive of the M23 in the territory of Masisi” and estimated that 450 people, “including women and children”, have been displaced and have taken refuge in its base in Kitshanga.
“Our ‘blue helmets’, who physically protect them, have also provided immediate assistance in the form of tents, food, water and first aid,” he said in his account on the social network Twitter, where he asked the rebels to “cease all hostilities and withdraw from the occupied areas, in line with the ‘road map’ established in the final communiqué of the Luanda mini-summit”.
The rebel group on Thursday accused the DRC of “creating” chaos through the “externalization of the conflict” and has reiterated its allegations about the use of “mercenaries” by Kinshasa, while accusing MONUSCO of being the “pillar” of government forces and their allied militias.
“M23 condemns the ongoing shelling of densely populated areas by the coalition with the help of MONUSCO. M23 continues to professionally defend itself and protect the civilian population and their belongings and will spare no effort in dealing with the threat, wherever it comes from,” he said.
The group published a statement late on Thursday denouncing that the DRC “prepares a genocide in Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu.” “Unfortunately, the worst and most feared is happening under the watchful eyes of the world,” said the spokesman for the political wing of the M23, Lawrence Kanyuka.
“There is a genocide under way against the Congolese Tutsis in Kitshanga, Burungu, Kiloliwre and its surroundings by the DRC government coalition and its killing machine, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR),” he stressed. The FDLR is a rebel armed group founded and composed mainly of Hutus responsible for the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.
“Therefore, the M23 is forced to intervene and stop another genocide in the African Great Lakes region, as the world fails to assist a community under threat of extermination,” Kanyuka said. who thus recalled the genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda.
THE CONFLICT WITH THE M23
The M23 is a rebel group made up mainly of Congolese Tutsis and operating mainly in the North Kivu province. Following a conflict between 2012 and 2013, the RDC and the group signed a peace agreement in December. In these combats, the DRC Army had the support of United Nations troops.
The group launched a new offensive in October 2022, intensified as of November, which has caused a diplomatic crisis between the DRC and Rwanda over their role in the conflict. UN experts pointed out in December to the existence of “substantial evidence” of “direct intervention” by the Rwandan Army in the conflict.
They also highlighted a collusion between the Congolese Army and various armed groups, including the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) and the Mai-Mai, to combat the M23, including the proposal by armed groups to “mobilize 600 combatants”. to reinforce the ranks of the Armed Forces.
Rwanda has accused the DRC of supporting the FDLR and of using the Mai-Mai militias — Congolese nationalist militias formed to defend their tribal territory against the numerous rebel groups active since the 1990s — in the conflict. Likewise, he has denounced discrimination and acts of hate against the Tutsi minority in the neighboring country.