At least six villages have been completely abandoned by their inhabitants as forces of the DR Congo national army, FARDC, have been battling with M23 rebels in the Rugari and Kisigari tribal groups in Rutshuru territory.
The clash between the government troops and the rebels has been on for the past three days, according to local sources.
Socio-economic activities have been completely paralyzed in Rugari centre, 45 kilometres to the north of Goma where several thousand inhabitants have taken refuge.
“Right now, there is relative calm but there are no economic activities going on. The displaced persons are housed here,” Tresor Ntwari, president of the Rugari youths revealed.
Ntwari said some have gone towards Goma and Kibumba while others have gone to Rutshuru.
“They came from Nyesisi, Ngugo, Ruhanga, Ngombi, Mugwata and Gikeri,” he said.
He disclosed that the displaced people are being hosted by benevolent families.
“Everybody has escaped from the village. There is nobody there. Up until 1 p.m. yesterday, the villages were under the control of the enemy. We do not know the position of the enemy now because the FARDC has been bombing these places since yesterday.”
Several sources have confirmed that at least 24 FARDC soldiers including Col. Ndume Banganyingano were killed in the attack of an army position by M23 rebels in the night of Monday to Tuesday Jan. 25.
But the army has not given any casualty figures but has confirmed that the offensive launched against the rebels was continuing in the Kisigari-Rugari zone.
The military governor of North Kivu, Lt.-General Constant Ndima on Wednesday, Jan. 26 visited Rugari where he has been supervising the pounding of the positions of the assailants.
“Loyalist forces are on the offensive in that zone. As concerns the enemy, we should be allowed to work until we succeed in identifying them. For now, we are in the middle of an offensive and it is difficult to tell you anything. You will have the details later,” Lt.-Colonel Njike, spokesperson of the North Kivu Sokola 2 operational sector declared.
The “Mouvement du 23 Mars” (M23) which also calls itself “Armee Revolutionnaire du Congo” is an old rebellion of Congolese supported by Rwanda and Uganda, which was defeated in 2013.
It is accused of having been attacking army positions since Nov. 2021.
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