With fear amongst some Kenyans that president Ruto may have sent our young men to their early graves by pushing them into the hands of battle-hardened Congolese militias, on the other hand, the rebels are worried that any reckless move might infuriate the sleeping giant of the region and cause Kenya to unleash its might. Now, the latest interesting development in a village within Goma has given the clearest indication yet so far over what to expect.
Fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo between the army and M23 rebels has moved close to the key eastern city of Goma, said an army spokesperson on Monday, causing a fresh wave of displacement amid diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict.
Clashes picked up again in North-Kivu province on Friday, ending about a week of relative calm since the group launched their latest offensive on Oct. 20.
Battles have broken out around the villages of Kibumba, Rugari and Tongo, North-Kivu army spokesperson Guillaume Ndjike said.
Kibumba is around 20 km (12 miles) north of Goma, which the M23 briefly overran during their first big insurrection in 2012.
“They are attacking but we are containing them and taking initiatives to push them back,” Ndjike said.
A Tongo resident who did not wish to be named said via telephone that the army had left and that people were fleeing en masse. A witness in Kibumba painted a similar picture.
The M23 have staged a major come-back in east Congo this year since they were chased into neighboring Rwanda and Uganda in 2013.
Tens of thousands have fled fresh fighting that has caused a diplomatic rift between Congo and Rwanda, which Congo accuses of backing the Tutsi-led group. Rwanda denies any involvement.
Regional efforts are under way to cool tensions between the two countries and end the conflict unfolding along their shared border. Kenya has deployed a standing army to bolster efforts of the Congolese Government in fighting the rebels.
Kenya’s ex-President Uhuru Kenyatta, who has been in Congo this week ahead of peace negotiations with armed groups, said talks in Nairobi would be held before the end of the month – later than the original proposed date of this Wednesday.
“We have not come here with a prescription but rather with the idea of listening to our brothers and sisters and hopefully to be able to make a contribution towards bringing lasting peace,” he said late on Monday after meeting various stakeholders.
Angolan President Joao Lourenco mediated earlier talks between Congolese and Rwandan officials in Luanda and visited both nations over the past weekend.
The Chair of West Africa’s main regional bloc ECOWAS, Umaro Sissoco Embalo, has also traveled to Kinshasa and Kigali.
An M23 leader, Bertrand Bisimwa, blamed Congo’s army for starting a war against the group.
“They are not taking responsibility for their initiative,” he protested.
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