DR Congo: Fighting flares up as army clashes with M23 rebels around strategic highway

DR Congo: Fighting flares up as army clashes with M23 rebels around strategic highway

Congolese army clashed with M23 rebels around a strategic highway in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Thursday (27 October), following a recent flare-up between the two sides.

The M23, a mostly Congolese Tutsi group, resumed fighting in late 2021 after lying dormant for years. It has since captured swathes of territory in North Kivu province, including the strategic town of Bunagana on the Ugandan border in June. The group’s resurgence has destabilized relations among Central African countries, with the DR Congo accusing its smaller neighbor Rwanda of backing the militia. The frontline between Congolese troops and M23 rebels had been calm in recent weeks until Thursday, when clashes erupted again. Last Sunday, M23 fighters captured the village of Ntamugenga located around RN2, a strategic highway leading to the provincial capital Goma, and the fighting between soldiers and the M23 has since spread to the highway itself.

The Kivu Security Tracker (KST), a respected violence monitor, also said that M23 activity had cut access to a portion of the highway. The militia is occupying at least three other settlements which all lie on the highway. The M23 first leapt to prominence in 2012 when it briefly captured Goma before a joint Congolese-UN offensive drove it out. The militia is one of the scores of armed groups that roam eastern DR Congo, many of them a legacy of two regional wars that flared late last century.

Despite official denials from Kigali, an unpublished report for the United Nations in August reportedly pointed to Rwandan involvement with the M23. The same report said the M23 plans to capture Goma, an important trade hub of about one million people, in order to extract political concessions from the Congolese government.

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