Renewed Clashes in Rutshuru: FARDC and M23 Face Off in Multi-Front Conflict

On Monday, March 4, 2024, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Rutshuru territory became a battleground as the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) and M23 rebels engaged in fierce confrontations across several fronts. This escalation follows a brief period of calm, during which civil society actors suggest the rebels seized the opportunity to bolster their forces in anticipation of renewed aggression against Congolese military positions.

The hostilities commenced in the early hours, around 5 a.m., with M23 and RDF launching attacks on FARDC and Wazalendo positions west of Bambo at Muti, Kauma, Nyabiteja, and Mumo, extending north towards Lushebere past Kishishe. Reports indicate bombings reaching Kirima, approximately 17 km from Kibirizi, marking a significant intensification of the conflict.

The Bambo groupement, among other areas, witnessed these renewed clashes, spreading panic among the civilian population, particularly in Nyanzale city, as bombings initiated from Kihondo forced residents to flee for safety.

By Monday morning, the conflict had expanded to various axes within the Bwito chiefdom, with local civil society reporting heavy artillery detonations audible even in the strategic city of Nyanzale. This onslaught has displaced numerous inhabitants, directing them towards Kibirizi, Kanyabayonga, and surrounding areas in search of refuge.

Tragically, the violence claimed the lives of 8 civilians, including 3 children and 2 women, with several others injured in the skirmishes that broke out at 5:30 a.m. between M23, RDF, and the Congolese armed forces.

Amid ongoing clashes, local sources have confirmed that the M23 and RDF coalition has taken control of Kihondo village, a few kilometers from Nyanzale city. This takeover has led to systematic looting of shops and residences, further exacerbating the plight of the local population.

Despite these adversities, the city of Nyanzale remains under the control of the young  fighters, Wazalendo, as of 6 p.m. on March 4. The situation, however, remains dire, with the proximity of fighting to Nyanzale city causing widespread fear and uncertainty among its residents.

Notably, an unconfirmed report suggests a bomb may have landed within the MONUSCO base in Kihondo, alongside other bombings targeting the vicinity, including a displaced persons camp in Kihondo, further highlighting the escalating humanitarian crisis.

In response to these developments, local and international actors, including government officials and humanitarian groups, have converged on Goma to assess the security situation and provide assistance to the influx of displaced individuals seeking sanctuary from the conflict.