The Congolese army, General Sylvain Ekenge, has confirmed that there are movements of the Rwandan army and the M23 rebellion taking place in the North Kivu province. Their intention, according to him, is to launch an attack on the city of Goma.
When asked by AFP on Tuesday, a spokesperson for the M23 did not immediately respond to the statements made by the general, which were released on Monday evening.
Goma is situated in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, bordered by Rwanda to the east, Lake Kivu to the south, the Masisi mountains to the west, and the Rutshuru territory to the north. The M23 has partial control over the Rutshuru territory, where a military force from the East African Community (EAC) was recently deployed.
The population of Goma is estimated to be over one million inhabitants, and in recent months, an additional one million people have fled due to the advance of the M23 rebels, who are supported by units of the Rwandan army, as reported by UN experts. A ceasefire has been in place in the area since mid-March.
During a Council of Ministers meeting last Thursday, the new Minister of Defense, Jean-Pierre Bemba, who is a former warlord, stated that the Rwandan army and the M23 were strengthening their positions in preparation for a general offensive with the objective of occupying Goma.
The army spokesperson explains that new recruits have recently completed their training in Rwanda and at Tchanzu, a hill near the Rwandan border. These recruits have been deployed in Kibumba and Rugari, areas that are believed to be under the control of the EAC force. The main point of contention between the DRC and its neighbors is the mandate of this force, with Congolese authorities accusing them of being lenient towards the rebellion.
In early May, during a summit of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi denounced the “cohabitation” observed between the EAC troops and the “M23 terrorists.”
In response to the announcement of possible troop deployment by SADC countries, President Tshisekedi stated that the East African force might be asked to leave the country by the end of June, just three months after its full deployment, as the mission assigned to the force has not been fulfilled.
According to diplomatic sources in Kinshasa and within the EAC, a meeting of East African heads of state is scheduled to take place in Kenya around June 3.
Furthermore, in recent days, surveillance drones operated by Agemira, a private military company led by two French individuals, have been spotted in the skies of Kinshasa. Military sources indicate that these drones will soon be deployed in the East to strengthen the defense against the M23.