KAMPALA – The March 23 Movement – M23 rebels and Armed Forces of Democratic Republic of Congo –FARDC troops have engaged in an oral battle following the death of 50 civilians in Rutshuru territory of North Kivu province.
Early this week, 50 Congolese civilians were killed in Kishishe locality, bamboo Groupement, Bwito Chiefdom. The bodies were discovered hours after the fighting between M23 rebels and local armed groups opposing the rebels’ occupation in the area. The fighting happened at a time when talks between the armed groups and the DRC government are on-going in Nairobi, Kenya.
Gen Sylvain Ekenge – the FARDC Spokesperson released a statement on Thursday, alleging that killing of the civilians was the act of M23 rebels. Ekenge claimed that the 40 were massacred for resisting rebels’ rule, adding that the rebels had kidnapped an unknown number of other civilians.
“Faced with the population’s refusal to submit to their dictate, the Rwandan Defence Forces and their M23 auxiliaries carried out massacres of civilians in the territory of Rutshuru.
“The latest case is that of 50 Congolese civilians cowardly murdered on Tuesday, November 29, 2022, in Kishisshe a locality located in the Bambu group, Bwito chiefdom in the territory of Rutshuru. Several other civilians are now missing or kidnapped,” said the Ekenge statement.
He also claims that M23 rebels on Thursday attacked the positions of the FARDC held by the 341st Infantry Regiment in KALIMA, near the bridge over the river Rwindi, in the Bamboo Group, Chiefdom of Bwito Territory of Rutshuru.
But moments later, Lawrence Kanyuka – the M23 rebels’ political spokesperson also released statement rubbishing Ekenge’s accusations, describing them as baseless and false.
Kanyuka accused FARDC of collaborating with Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda – FDRL rebels and militias of Mai Mai and Nyatura among others and killed the civilians in order to tarnish the image of M23.
“The M23 strongly condemns this practice not only executed by the DRC Government and the coalition of FARDC, FDLR, NYATURA, APCLS, and MAI-MAI, but also by some organizations. In all areas that the M23 controls, all the populations live in harmonious collaboration and carry on their business as usual without any worries,” said Kanyuka.
M23 Rebels, FARDC Trade Accusations After Civilian Killings.
He also accused FARDC and the militia coalition of platting to carry out a genocide mission in Masisi territory with a mission of gaining sympathy by attributing it to M23.
And as the verbal exchanges were still flying, fighting between M23 and FARDC broke out in the villages of Kirima, Matete, and Lushebere along the Bambo-Kibirizi road in Rutshuru territory, leading to the displacement of civilians to Kitshanga in Masisi territory, which is under the control of M23 rebels.
Meanwhile, the Banyamulenge community has suspended participation in the on-going Nairobi dialogue over the killing of seven of their fellows in Minembwe, in the province of South Kivu.
In a press statement issued on Thursday, the Banyamulenge accuse the militia group of Mai Mai in collaboration with militias of Bishambuke, Kakutumba, Illunga, Rusesema, and Red Tabara Burundians of attacking the villages of Gakangara, Muuliza, and Biziba on Wednesday and killing seven innocent civilians.
The on-going Nairobi process on peace and security in the East of the Democratic Republic of Congo brought together several leaders of the armed groups who are at the root of the insecurity in North Kivu, South Kivu, and the province of Ituri.