The M23 rebel group has retaken the village of Kishishe in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where it is accused of having committed a massacre late last year, local sources said Tuesday.
The rebels, who are backed by Rwanda according to numerous sources, had withdrawn from the village at the beginning of April, at the same time as they left other localities in the North Kivu Province, which they had seized the previous year.
But after six months of relative calm, violent fighting resumed in early October between the rebels and the army, allied with so-called “patriot” armed groups.
Read: DRC truce violations raise tension as AU rethinks peace interventions
Since then, the M23 appears to have gradually reoccupied positions they had vacated.
Kishishe has been largely deserted by its inhabitants, but fighting nonetheless took place there for two days, before the army stepped in, according to sources interviewed by telephone from Goma, the provincial capital.
“The invaders launched large-scale attacks,” said an officer speaking on condition of anonymity, claiming that the rebels had received reinforcements from the Rwandan army.
“These are Rwandans attacking us”, he said.
“Kishishe has been controlled by the M23” since late Monday afternoon, said a local civil society representative, information confirmed by two security sources.
“The M23 is in Kishishe. The population has fled to (the neighbouring localities of) Kirima, Mutanda, Kanyabayonga, Kibirizi”, said a village official.
“There’s a lot of tension in Kibirizi, where displaced people are arriving in droves”, said one resident.
Read: Insecurity fears in Eastern DRC ahead of elections
He added that FDLR militiamen “in civilian clothes” are also arriving in the town.
The hills around Kishishe are historic strongholds of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), a militia created by Rwandan Hutu leaders who carried out the 1994 Tutsi genocide in Rwanda.
In November 2022, M23 rebels killed 171 people in Kishishe, according to the UN, mainly boys and men they accused of being militiamen.
The M23 denies having committed such a massacre.
The Tutsi-led M23 rebels (“March 23 Movement”) was defeated in 2013, but took up arms again in November 2021 in North Kivu, bordering Rwanda and Uganda.
Source: The East African