M23 Claims to Down CH-4 Drone Amid Escalating Tensions in Eastern Congo

On February 9, 2024, the M23 rebel group, through a spokesperson, Lawrence Kanyuka, announced via social media that they had shot down another drone belonging to the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC). This claim was accompanied by visuals purportedly showing the wreckage of the aircraft. However, this information has not been independently verified, and the Congolese military has not yet issued a statement regarding the incident.

The spokesperson for M23, Lawrence Kanyuka, accused FARDC drones of killing civilians with the logistical support of MONUSCO, a United Nations mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), alleging violations of international conventions and United Nations Security Council resolutions. The M23 statement detailed the downing of a CH-4 drone, which they claim was being used against their compatriots with MONUSCO’s assistance.

The M23 further implicated DRC President Félix Tshisekedi Tshilombo and allied forces, including FARDC, FDLR, mercenaries, militias, the National Defense Forces of Burundi, and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) forces, in ongoing civilian massacres and ethnic cleansing. They called for Tshisekedi Tshilombo to be held accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

This recent claim follows a previous instance where M23 displayed what they claimed was part of a downed FARDC CH-4 drone. However, the Congolese government dismissed it as propaganda, stating that the shown wreckage was from a MONUSCO helicopter downed by M23 in 2022, a claim that also lacked independent verification.

The latest M23 announcement coincides with a visit to North Kivu by Congo’s Defense Minister Jean Pierre Bemba and the chief of the Congolese Armed Forces, amid reports of intense fighting near the town of Sake and north of Goma in the Kibumba area. Congolese forces and their supporters, known as Wazalendo, have been sharing numerous social media posts celebrating their victories, showing destroyed M23 bases and casualties, attributed to attacks by Congolese Sukhoi 25 fighter aircraft.