Rutshuru, DRC | THE INDEPENDENT | Fierce fighting between the March 23 Movement (M23) and the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC), militia coalition under their umbrella Wazalendo (Patriots), and troops under Southern African Development Community (SADC) troops have continued in Mweso town, North Kivu province.
On Thursday, 19 people were killed and 27 injured following the bombing of Mweso town. The incident led to counter-accusations between M23 and FARDC with each blaming the other for being behind the bombings.
On Saturday morning, at around 7:00 am, heavy fighting resumed in Mweso town and surrounding areas of Karuba, Kingi, Karenga, Negenero, and Mbuhi. Fighting also erupted in Butare and Kibarizo in the Bashali Mukoto Grouping.
Lawrence Kanyuka, M23 political spokesperson released a statement accusing FARDC soldiers and their coalition of launching attacks. He claims that M23 is defending itself.
“The coalition forces of the Kinshasa regime, in particular the FARDC, FDLR, MERCENARIES, MILITIA, the NATIONAL DEFENSE FORCES OF BURUNDI and the SADC FORCES, by coming to kill civilians this morning as usual, they launched widespread attacks on our various positions in Karuba, Kingi, Karenga, Negenero, Mbuhi and their surrounding areas. The M23 defends itself professionally and will not tolerate massacres of the civilian population in the liberated and to-be-liberated areas. We alert the Humanitarian Community of the unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Mweso and its environment,” Kanyuka says in a statement.
Jules Mulumba, Spokesperson of the Wazalendo also released a statement accusing M23 of being the first to launch an assault against FARDC and Wazalendo positions. “The M23-RDF have just launched simultaneous attacks on the positions of young Wazalendo Patriotic Resistance fighters in Karuba, Rushoga, and Katana in the territory of Masisi. The M23-RDF have just launched attacks on the positions of young resistance fighters Patriots Wazalendo and FARDC in Mbuhi and Bukama this morning. In Butare on the hill of Murambi and Busumba, clashes have also just resumed in these areas between the rebels M23/RDF and the Young Patriotic Resistance Wazalendo”, says Mulumba in a statement.
Mweso town located about 100 kilometers North of Goma connects the territories of Masisi, Rutshuru, and Walikale. Once M23 fully takes control of the town, it will give them an advantage of controlling several important roads including the Kashuga-Kalembe roads which leads to Walikale, the Kitchanga road in Masisi but also the Katsiru road in Rutshuru territory.
It will also give them the advantage of easily obtaining supplies for fighters and weapons from Kalengera, Tongo, and Bwiza. Mweso Road is currently the only road route that connects the Far North to the city of Goma, after the suspension of traffic on the Goma-Rutshuru-Bunagana road by the government.
All trucks of goods and passenger vehicles coming from Beni-Butembo must pass through Kanyabayonga-Nyanzale-Katsiru-Mweso to Goma via Masisi. Fighting has raged in Mweso since Monday, January 22, 2024.
In March 2022, M23 led by Bertrand Bisimwa and General Sultan Makenga launched a war against the government. The DR Congo government accuses Rwanda of backing M23, but Rwanda and M23 strongly deny it. The rebels claim to fight against bad leadership in DR Congo based on corruption, xenophobia, and discrimination.