DR Congo Deploy Warplanes To Combat Advancing M23 Militant
On Thursday, the turbulent east of the Democratic Republic of the Congo saw the deployment of two airplanes against advancing M23 militants in response to a regional bloc’s appeal for the rebels to lay down their arms.
According to a local who spoke to AFP over the phone from the region’s capital city Goma, tanks and two fighter jets began to target rebel positions in the town of Kibumba at afternoon.
The town in North Kivu province, which is only 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Goma, a commercial center with a population of a million, was recently taken over by M23 forces.
The warplane strikes were confirmed by a security official who asked to remain anonymous. He told AFP, “We have hope, and we are moving forward.
The M23 has been moving closer to Goma, raising concerns about an impending attack on the city, prompting the Congolese military to retaliate.
The rebel group, which is primarily composed of Congolese Tutsis, has recently taken control of large areas of North Kivu.
A humanitarian catastrophe and a confrontation with Rwanda, whom the DR Congo accuses of supporting the M23, have been brought on by the advance.
From its base close to the borders with Uganda and Rwanda, the M23 has reportedly started a drive westward into Masisi territory in North Kivu, according to local residents and administrative authorities who spoke to AFP.
Residents of Tongo, a town located on the route heading into Masisi area, said on Thursday that “the rebels are here.”
On condition of anonymity, a local government official also told AFP late on Wednesday that M23 fighters had infiltrated his workplace.
The army of the DRC has not yet made an official announcement regarding the rebel advance.
According to the organizers, thousands of people participated in anti-M23 protests on Thursday around the nation, including more than 15,000 in Kinshasa, the nation’s capital.
Run from the enemy
After troops were seen retreating on Tuesday, thousands of residents gathered their belongings and moved towards Goma amid reports of a rebel onslaught.
A court official reported that three people were executed the following day in Goma by a military tribunal for “cowardice” and “fleeing before the enemy,” among other reasons.
In reality, the DR Congo commutes death sentences to life in prison.
Jeff Nyagah, the commander of the recently established East African Community (EAC) military force in eastern DR Congo, stated on Wednesday that the rebels needed to engage in political talks and disarm.
The Kenyan general threatened, “Those who fail or refuse to freely disarm, then we’ll go for them.”
Nyagah further promised that Goma would be safeguarded by the EAC force.
Uhuru Kenyatta, a former president of Kenya and crisis mediator for the seven-nation EAC, had also urged militants on Tuesday to put down their weapons and enter into talks.
On November 21, the EAC has requested a “peace dialogue” in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya.
According to a statement, the French foreign ministry condemned the most recent acts of violence and demanded the M23 to leave the area it has taken.
Eastern Congo is home to more than 120 armed organizations, many of which are a result of local conflicts that erupted at the turn of the century.
When the M23 took control of Goma in 2012, it shot to fame before being pushed from the city and went to ground.
The rebel group, however, reappeared late last year, alleging, among other things, that the DRC had broken a promise to incorporate its fighters into the army.
AFP discovered an unreleased United Nations study in August that suggested Rwandan participation with the M23 despite official denials from Kigali.
After the 1994 Rwandan massacre, Hutu militants crossed the border, and Rwanda accused Kinshasa of working with them. It is denied by the DRC.