M23 Rebels Close in on Another Town in East DR Congo

Civilians were fleeing on Thursday as Rwanda-backed M23 rebels closed in on another strategic town in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, local sources said.

The March 23 Movement resumed its armed campaign at the end of 2021, seizing swathes of territory in the North Kivu province.

The Congolese army has tried to push back against the rebel group, which has almost entirely encircled Goma, the capital of the North Kivu province where hundreds of thousands of displaced people have sought shelter.

The rebels were now closing in on the town of Kanyabayonga, which is on the road to Goma.

“The M23 is five kilometres (about three miles) from the centre of Kanyabayonga,” a local official told AFP, speaking on telephone.

“Kanyabayonga is in the process of emptying itself,” another source said.

“The situation is very bad and people have started fleeing” to the north, the unnamed official said.

Goma lies on the way to the key cities of Butembo and Beni and is home to about 60,000 people, apart from tens of thousands of displaced people who are sheltering there.

Fighting was also reported Thursday in the Masisi area around Sake, which is only about 20 kilometres west of Goma.

The FARDC, or Congolese armed forces, backed by armed militia known as the Wazalendo — or patriots in Swahili — launched an offensive about a week ago in North Kivu’s Rutshuru and Masisi territories in a bid to re-capture areas occupied by the M23.

The M23 seized the town of Kyaghala on Monday, a civil society official said, adding that this led people to flee towards Kanyabayonga.

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