President William Ruto of Kenya arrived in Kinshasa, capital of Democratic Republic of Congo in a renewed effort by East African Community (EAC) leaders to find a lasting solution to the fighting in the eastern region of the country.
But the rebel advance is still spreading. As President Ruto arrived on Sunday, church services were scattered by the surprise arrival of rebels in a number of towns north of Rutshuru.
President Ruto is expected to hold talks with his Congolese counterpart, Felix Tshisekedi today, Nov 21.
The visit by President Ruto comes on the heels of one by his predecessor, Uhuru Kenyatta, who was named facilitator of the DR Congo peace process by the East African Community.
A parallel peace initiative on the DR Congo is led by the Angolan head of state, President Joao Lourenco, who has arranged another meeting between President Felix Tshisekedi of the DR Congo and Paul Kagame of Rwanda to be held on Thursday Nov 24 in the Angolan capital Luanda.
Meanwhile, rebels from M23 arrived without warning on Sunday Nov 20 interrupting church services in several towns and villages near the border with Uganda.
“We were in church when the M23 appeared from nowhere and started shooting”, revealed a pastor in Katwiguru, an agglomeration in Rutshuru territory situated on the northeast of the front where fighting between the Congolese army and M23 rebels is currently going on.
According to Jean Bosco Bahati of the local civil society, the rebels have captured several villages in the region which is 35 kilometres from Ishasha, a locality on the border with Uganda not far away from Lake Edward.
The fighting resumed after less than 24 hours of relative calm last Saturday leading to hopes that a ceasefire might last longer.
“The population is in disarray”, Jean Bosco Bahati said, adding that the army has withdrawn towards the north.
To the south, fighting resumed around Kibumba, twenty kilometres to the north of Goma, chief town of North Kivu province, Nov 20. It has been the front line of the conflict for for several days.
“Since this morning, fighting has been fierce in the region”, said a security source who asked for anonymity, adding that “three officers, including a colonel have just been wounded in the fighting”.
In another development, two civilians were killed in an attack by another rebel group, the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), who are affiliated with Islamic State. The attack happened on Malibongo in Irumu territory on Nov 20.
Several persons have been reported missing since the attack.
“These rebels simultaneously attacked a church and a national army, FARDC position. They arrived in the church when Christians were praying and took advantage to kidnap some persons and kill two civilians before the national army arrived at the scene. There is calm in the area right now and Ugandan soldiers have set up a position on the site of the attack”, Jacques Kisembo, president of the civil society of Bahema Mitego chiefdom declared.
There has been calm in the region for several weeks now in the Boga region which was shaken by ADF attacks. The Congolese army and the Ugandan defence forces carry out joint missions in the zone.
However, despite the presence of the FARDC and Ugandan forces in the region, the ADF is active in the south of Irumu territory notably in the Bahema Boga and Mitego chiefdoms as well as in Mambassa territory where the populations have deserted several villages following repeated attacks by the ADF.
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