DR Congo army clashes with rebels as Angola pursues peace bid

DR Congo army clashes with rebels as Angola pursues peace bid


M23 rebels and DR Congo forces clashed violently in North Kivu province on Friday as Angola’s president continued diplomatic efforts to bring peace between neighbors Kinshasa and Kigali.

Tensions between the DRC and Rwanda are at the highest level in years, with the DRC accusing its smaller neighbor of backing the M23, the Rwandan government denies.

In eastern DRC, locals reported hearing heavy artillery fire around Rugari in the Rutshuru Territory starting in the early morning as the army began targeting M23 fighters.

The DRC military had this week used Sukhoi-25 jets and Mi-24 helicopters against the M23, a mainly Congolese Tutsi militia.

The clashes prompted more people to flee to safety, a witness told AFP by phone from Rumangabo, 10 kilometers from Rugari.

“We can hear the sound of the bombs,” he said.

According to medical sources, at least five civilians, including two children, were killed and 11 injured in Friday’s fighting.

The artillery barrage came from Kibumba on a main road leading to the regional capital, Goma.

An AFP reporter saw an army tank and a truck loaded with ammunition driving towards the combat area on the outskirts of the city.

“The fighting in Rugari continues. We’re making progress,” a security source said.

Power was cut in Goma in the afternoon after a hydroelectric power station transmission line was hit, Virunga Energies said.

Meanwhile, the World Food Program (WFP) said gunmen had attacked UN-backed school canteens in the Rutshuru region, which is under M23 control.

“Six primary schools were initially attacked and food supplies were forcibly confiscated,” said a WFP statement.

– ‘Regional Efforts’ –

“Armed groups came in trucks and took away the supplies that were in the schools in Kiwanja and Rutshuru,” said the WFP regional coordinator.

“Right now, M23 are active in Rutshuru territory. Obviously we suspect them because they control the two cities,” he added in North Kivu province.

The M23 has claimed a string of victories against the DRC army in North Kivu province in recent weeks, dramatically increasing the territory it controls.

The resource-rich DRC is struggling to contain dozens of armed militias, including the M23, which rose to prominence in 2012 and briefly occupied Goma.

But after years of mostly lying dormant, it resumed fighting in 2021, claiming the DRC had failed, among other things, in a pledge to integrate them into the army.

The eastern DRC has been plagued by armed groups for nearly three decades, many inherited from the wars that bloodied the region following the 1994 Rwandan genocide.

Angolan President Joao Lourenco visited Rwanda on Friday as part of diplomatic efforts to settle the dispute with the Democratic Republic of the Congo and is expected in Kinshasa on Saturday.

Kinshasa expelled Rwanda’s ambassador late last month while recalling its envoy from Kigali.

Lourenco was scheduled to hold talks with Rwandan President Paul Kagame “as part of regional efforts to normalize relations between Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” the ruling party newspaper The New Times said.

The meeting follows talks between the two countries’ foreign ministers, who agreed on Saturday to speed up efforts to resolve the diplomatic crisis.

A roadmap to end hostilities was agreed at an Angola-brokered summit between Kagame and his Congolese counterpart Felix Tshisekedi in July.

On Wednesday, Kenya’s parliament approved the deployment of more than 900 troops to the DRC as part of a regional force set up to try to restore security in the east.

Kenya’s former President Uhuru Kenyatta, the East African Community Bloc’s mediator on the situation, will visit Kinshasa on Sunday for a 48-hour working visit, the DRC presidency said.


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