Sake under bombardments: Pro-M23 Claim Land Encirclement of Goma.

On January 27, 2024, renewed fighting was reported in Karuba, near Sake, between the coalition forces of Wazalendo and the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC), and the M23 rebels. The conflict extended along the Sake-Masisi axis in the Masisi territory, with heavy gunfire reported in areas such as Bushuwe, Avenue Mandale, and near a local antennae point in the Bahunde chiefdom. The sounds of heavy weaponry were even heard in the town of Sake, located 27 kilometers west of Goma.

Pro-M23 sources and those from Kigali reported a significant development on the same day: the M23 rebels had seized control of the road at Shasha, just below Muremure hill, effectively cutting off the Goma-Bukavu road at 08:30. This strategic move by the M23 forces has left Kinshasa with only air or water routes to reach Goma.

Prior to these developments, the Goma city administration had already imposed restrictions on the movement of motorcycles and boats between Goma and Bukavu after 17:00h, indicating a tense security situation in the region.

A Congolese journalist with pro-Kinshasa views reported heavy bombardment in the town of Sake, 27 kilometers west of Goma. On January 27, a little girl lost her life in an explosion in this densely populated area. Witnesses attributed the bomb to the M23, claiming it targeted the Mahyutsa neighborhood, causing both fatalities and significant property damage.

Lt Col NDJIKE Guillaume, the spokesperson for the Armed Forces of the DRC in North Kivu, accused the Rwandan Army and their allies in the M23 of launching widespread attacks on their positions since the morning of January 27. He claimed that after suffering heavy losses, the M23 and the Rwandan Army, in retreat, dropped a bomb in the town of SAKE, resulting in the death of a child and other collateral damage.

Conversely, Lawrence Kanyuka, the spokesperson for the M23, in his daily update on January 27, 2024, presented a different narrative. He claimed that the coalition forces of the Kinshasa regime, including FARDC, FDLR, mercenaries, militias, National Defense Forces of Burundi, and SADC forces, were attacking civilian populations and had launched widespread attacks on various M23 positions. He emphasized that M23 was professionally defending itself and would not tolerate civilian massacres in areas under their control. Additionally, Kanyuka raised alarms about an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Mweso and its surroundings.

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has a clear mandate in the DR Congo, focused on neutralizing M23. Major General Monwabisi Dyakopu, the overall Commander of SADC troops in the DRC, explicitly stated their objective to combat the M23 threat. The recent arrival of Tanzanian Forces in Goma, with plans to deploy them soon along the Sake-Masisi axis, has led experts to speculate that M23 and the Rwandan Defence Force (RDF) are attempting to secure strategic positions, particularly the Sake-Minova (Goma-Bukavu) road, ahead of the Tanzanian deployment and subsequent offensive operations.