Following three days of fierce fighting with government forces, M23 rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo claim to have captured Kitshanga.
One of the first media outlets to alert the rebels to Kitshanga’s fall was the UN-sponsored local radio Okapi. On social media, pictures of hundreds of people fleeing the area have also been posted.
“Yes we now have Kitshanga and its neighbourhoods,” Willy Ngoma, a spokesman of the M23 rebels, told the newsmen on Friday.
More than 400,000 people have been forced to abandon their homes as a result of the M23 military offensives, which have been denounced by local civil society organisations and UN personnel operating there.
Sen. Francine Muyumba of the Democratic Republic of the Congo tweeted that “the country is doing extremely badly” and requested that parliament hold an extraordinary session.
The M23 rebels were asked to end hostilities and leave the territories they had taken control of at a meeting held in November in neighboring Angola.
But the rebels said they find themselves “obliged to intervene to stop another genocide” against ethnic Tutsis living in DR Congo, according to a statement on Thursday evening.
The hamlet of Kitshanga is strategically located between the two major economic centers of the area, Goma and Butembo.
The town served as the bastion and administrative center for the notorious rebel leader Laurent Nkunda’s CNDP rebel organisation, which subsequently evolved into M23, for a number of years.
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