Officials say that on Tuesday, the DR Congo’s military utilised recently deployed jets to neutralise M23 strongholds in the country’s east, causing some citizens of rebel-held territory to flee across the border.
The M23, a predominantly Congolese Tutsi militia, initially gained notoriety in 2012 when it briefly took control of Goma, the capital of the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), before being expelled.
After going inactive for several years, the organisation resumed hostilities in late 2021, alleging, among other things, that the DRC had broken a promise to include them in the army.
In recent weeks, the M23 rebels in North Kivu province have decisively increased the area they control by defeating the Congolese army.
Relations between the DRC and its smaller neighbor Rwanda, which Kinshasa alleges of supporting the M23, have been severely damaged as a result of their comeback.
On Tuesday, a Congolese security official who asked for anonymity said warplanes were bombarding the rebel-held Tchanzu area of North Kivu and would continue “all day”.
A resident of the strategic town of Bunagana on the Ugandan border, which the M23 captured in June, confirmed to newsmen that the aircraft were striking the area.
“It’s every man for himself,” he said, describing how town residents were fleeing across the border into Uganda.
The M23, a predominantly Congolese Tutsi militia, initially gained notoriety in 2012 when they briefly took control of Goma, the country’s capital. Many M23 fighters were incorporated into the national military following a peace agreement in 2013.
In late 2021, the organisation restarted hostilities, citing, among other complaints, the DRC’s breach of a promise to incorporate its fighters into the army.
The DRC’s military started indoctrinating roughly 3,000 new recruits on Monday in Goma as a show of strength.
The M23 captured many towns along a crucial route leading to Goma over the weekend, prompting the DRC to send two Sukhoi-25 planes to the turbulent east.
A Congolese fighter jet crossed Rwandan airspace on Monday, prompting accusations of provocation from Rwanda against the Democratic Republic of the Congo.