Conflict between M23 rebels and government forces is intensifying in eastern DR Congo’s Masisi territory, residents said Wednesday, after days of unrest that have left dozens injured.
Tensions in Masisi have displaced residents of many villages and overwhelmed health centers, according to humanitarian sources.
Residents pointed to Sake, a strategic point on the road to provincial capital Goma as a flashpoint in the latest fighting in North Kivu province in the east of the country.
Army spokesman General Sylvain Ekenge told reporters late Tuesday there had been “intense fighting” for control of a stretch of highway running between Sake and Minova, a small town in the neighboring province of South Kivu.
A medical source in Sake said the local health center had received around 20 wounded people, “mostly civilians” and some of them seriously hurt, in the past three days, while another in Minova reported about thirty such cases.
Two territories in North Kivu, Rutshuru and Masisi, have been gripped by conflict since late 2021 as the M23 or “March 23 Movement” rebels, which DR Congo alleges is backed by Rwandan forces, take on government troops.
The UN backs the claim of Rwandan involvement, which Kigali denies.
The unrest has cut off most supply routes to Goma, a city of more than one million people near the Rwandan border which the rebels seized more than a decade ago before being driven out.
“I’m currently in Kimoka, two kilometres (1.2 miles) from Sake. It’s a stampede, my brothers and sisters who can’t stand the detonations are now heading for Goma,” one resident who asked not to be named told AFP by phone. A local official said clashes were intensifying in the hills around Sake.