East Africa

M23 Rebels Give Back Rumangabo Military Base to DR Congo Army

After months of advancing into Goma, the M23 rebel group on Friday returned a significant military base in eastern DR Congo, the most recent action in its commitment to leave captured territory.

After months of advancing into Goma, the M23 rebel group on Friday returned a significant military base in eastern DR Congo, the most recent action in its commitment to leave captured territory.

Just 40 kilometers (25 miles) north of the city, close to Rumangabo, the largest base of the Congolese army in the area, locals cautiously welcomed the transfer ceremony.

The 35-year-old Nyiramwiza, who was carrying a child on her back, exclaimed, “We’re joyful because God has rescued us from this open-air prison.”

It felt like a nightmare. Even going to the field to fetch water made us nervous.

Rumangabo, which was taken over by the Tutsi-led M23 two months ago, was quiet and already overgrown with foliage, giving it a sense of abandonment, according to AFP journalists permitted access.

The East African Community (EAC) sent Kenyan forces to oversee it. It came after a similar handover at a base in Kibumba, about 20 kilometers to the south, last month.

However, after pledging to withdraw from its positions, M23 troops have made gains elsewhere, casting doubt on the conflict’s viability after a year.

General Emmanuel Kaputa Kasenga, the deputy commander of the East African contingent, stated that “EAC forces would continue to coordinate M23’s methodical retreat and asks other armed factions to lay down their arms.”

Living behind bars

According to Imani Nzenze, an M23 colonel, the rebels had no desire to “conquer territory” despite having taken over Goma in 2012 before being forced out the following year.

He did, however, make clear that the gang intended to strike back if the DRCongo army or any of its partners attacked them.

Innocent Bwenge, 38, stated, “The rebels are gone, but they are still in other regions. His village home near Rumangabo was looted during the base’s occupancy.

Semahane, a 65-year-old woman, claimed that her children had been imprisoned in Goma since the conflict began.

“The road is closed, so we haven’t had any peace. She remarked, “It’s like living in a prison.

The route connecting Rumangabo and Goma was littered with abandoned houses, many of which had front doors that had been destroyed in November.

There were no vehicles visible on the road that an army tank had partially blocked.

M23, short for “the March 23 Movement,” resorted to violence against the government in the latter half of 2021, blaming Kinshasa for breaking its word to reintegrate the rebels into the army.

The Congolese army denounced M23’s announcement of its retreat from Kibumba last month as a ruse intended to divert attention while the group strengthened its positions elsewhere.

Conflicts between the M23, Congolese forces, and competing militias have persisted since then.

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