Mweso: FARDC Accuses M23 and Rwandan Forces of Civilian Bombings Amid Ongoing Conflict

On January 25, 2024, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Armed Forces (FARDC) alleged that M23 rebels, supported by the Rwandan army, bombed the city of Mweso in North Kivu’s Masisi Territory, resulting in 19 civilian deaths and 27 injuries. The FARDC, in a statement by Lieutenant-Colonel Ndjike Kaiko Guillaume, condemned this act as a violation of international humanitarian law and urged the international community to intervene.

The FARDC assert that the M23, after losing control of Mweso, resorted to these bombings during their retreat. The situation in Mweso has been tense, with activities halted for over four days due to ongoing conflicts involving M23 rebels, local youth resistance groups, and Congolese soldiers.

Lieutenant-Colonel Guillaume Njike Kaiko emphasized the FARDC’s commitment to protecting civilians and their determination to drive out the M23 and Rwandan forces. He also reported additional attacks on FARDC positions in Masisi on January 24.

In response, Bertrand Busimwa, President of M23, denied responsibility for the Mweso bombings, blaming the FARDC. He criticized a statement by the Kinshasa regime’s coalition forces, accusing them of war crimes and alleging inconsistencies in their narrative. The M23 leadership maintains its control over Mweso, challenging the FARDC’s claims of repelling their forces.

The funerals held on Friday for the victims of the recent bombings in Mweso, were marked by both tears and anger. The fatalities, some gruesomely disfigured, have led to intense sorrow and outrage among the community. Both the Congolese army and M23 have denied responsibility for these tragic events.

Amidst the grief, reports indicate that the clashes resumed on Friday, further aggravating the already dire humanitarian situation in the region. Sources have noted a significant displacement of residents from Mweso to Nyanzale, Kalembe, Goma, and through the city of Kitshanga since the morning.

In areas under M23 and RDF control, a curfew has been implemented, requiring residents to be in their homes by 6:30 PM. Violations of this curfew have led to severe repercussions, with reports of people being whipped, beaten to death, or arrested if found outside their homes after curfew. The enforcement of this curfew is believed to be a response to the M23’s limited manpower in various parts of Rutshuru. Despite their focus on frontline engagements, their internal presence is reportedly thin, necessitating stricter control measures within the community