Saturday, 30th September 2023

The Congolese army spokesman, General Sylvain Ekenge, affirms that movements of the Rwandan army and the M23 rebellion are underway in the province of North Kivu with a view, according to him, "to attack the city of Goma".

Asked by AFP on Tuesday, an M23 spokesperson did not immediately react to the general's statements released on Monday evening.

Located in the east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Goma is wedged between the Rwandan border to the east, Lake Kivu to the south, the Masisi mountains to the west, and, to the north, the territory of Rutshuru, partly controlled by the M23 and where an East African Community (EAC) military force was recently deployed. 

The population of Goma is estimated at more than one million inhabitants, to which have been added in recent months a million people who have fled the advance of the M23 rebels, supported by units of the Rwandan army, according to experts from the UN. A ceasefire has been observed in the area since mid-March.

Last Thursday, during the Council of Ministers, the new Minister of Defense and ex-warlord Jean-Pierre Bemba declared that the Rwandan army and the M23 were strengthening their positions "in anticipation of a general offensive" with the objective " the occupation" of Goma.

The army spokesman specifies that recruits have just "completed their training in Rwanda and at Tchanzu (hill near the Rwandan border)" and are deployed at the exit of Goma, in Kibumba and Rugari, areas supposed to be "under control of EAC force".

The main sticking point between the DRC and its neighbors is the mandate of this force, which the Congolese authorities accuse of complacency towards the rebellion.

In early May, at a summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi condemned the "observed cohabitation" between EAC troops and "M23 terrorists".

Following the announcement of possible troop dispatch by SADC countries, President Tshisekedi said the East African force could be asked to leave the country at the end of June - just three months after its full deployment - because "the mission assigned to this force is not fulfilled."

According to diplomatic sources in Kinshasa and within the EAC, a meeting of East African heads of state is to be held in Kenya around June 3.

In addition, in recent days, attack drones operated by Agemira, a private military company headed by two Frenchmen, have been observed in the skies of Kinshasa. According to military sources, they are to be deployed soon in the East to reinforce the system against the M23.

-Africa News

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