CONGO'S M23 REBELS CAPTURE KEY NORTH KIVU TOWN - GOMA
GOMA: Fighters from the M23 rebel group seized the town of Kiwandja in eastern Congo on Saturday, October 29, 2022, residents and a local official said, effectively cutting North Kivu's capital Goma off from the upper half of the province.
Three (3) people living in Kiwandja told that droves of fighters had entered the town without resistance after a short spat of gunfire. Kivu Security Tracker, which maps violence in eastern Congo, tweeted that shots were fired in town early Saturday morning.
The Congolese army contingent protecting the town departed the previous day, the residents said. The army has recently conducted strategic retreats from populated areas to move fighting away from towns and protect civilians.
"Kiwanja is an important entity that opens the direct way to Goma," Saidi Balikwisha Emil, a member of North Kivu's provincial parliament, said in a WhatsApp message.
"The fall of Kiwanja and elsewhere is a national disgrace, especially for those of us who spend entire days on social networks casting aspersions on our army," he added.
Neither General Sylvain Ekenge, the army's national spokesman, nor Colonel Ndjike Kaiko, the army's spokesman for North Kivu, immediately responded to calls and messages requesting comment.
Unrest in North Kivu has broken months of relative calm in eastern Congo after the resumption of clashes between the army and the M23 militants, whom Congo accuses its neighbor Rwanda of backing and Rwanda denies.
Army forces have clashed with rebel fighters several times since fighting resumed on October 20, 2022 killing at least four (4) civilians and forcing more than 23,000 people to flee their homes, according to the United Nations. Both groups have accused the other of initiating the violence.
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