Congo trains 3,000 new recruits amid Rwandan tensions

GOMA, Congo (AP) – More than 3,000 new army recruits began training Monday as the Congolese army steps up its fight against the M23 rebels it says are backed by neighboring Rwanda.

The Rwandan government, which has repeatedly denied backing the M23, meanwhile said a Congolese fighter jet “violated Rwandan airspace” by making a short landing at Rubavu airport.

“Rwanda did not take any military action in response and the aircraft returned to the DRC,” the Rwandan government said in a statement.

The M23 rebels rose to prominence more than a decade ago when they captured Goma, the largest city in eastern Congo, which lies along the border with Rwanda. After the peace agreement, many M23 fighters were integrated into the national army. But a year ago, the group resurfaced, saying the government had failed to deliver on its decade-long promises.

Tensions have risen as M23 rebels have advanced in recent weeks, seizing several key towns, including Kiwanja. The Congolese government blamed Rwanda and expelled the Rwandan ambassador about a week ago.

Representatives of the two countries met over the weekend in Angola where they agreed to “maintain dialogue”. Second peace talks are expected to resume in Kenya next week. However, Congolese government spokesman Patrick Muyaya said M23 representatives would not be allowed to participate unless conditions were met.

“M23 must withdraw from occupied positions before reintegrating into the process like other armed groups,” he told reporters at the weekend.

In Goma on Monday, North Kivu military spokesman Lieutenant General Guillaume Djike Kaiko said more than 3,000 people had come forward to join the army’s efforts against M23.

Among them was Clarissa Mahamba, a 19-year-old who said she had been interested in the military since childhood and wanted to serve her country.

“I see that things are not going well in our country,” she told The Associated Press. “I saw Rwandans coming to attack us because I was in Rumangabo. I saw how our soldiers were suffering, I ran away and that’s why I joined the army.”

Edison Butsira, 27, has a degree in economics, but said he wants to follow the example of young Ukrainians who took up arms to defend their country.

“Young people decided to leave their activities – they went to enlist in their army to fight because Ukraine was under attack,” Butsira told the AP. “This is where I also left my job and joined my friends to fight.”

Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi also called on his citizens to mobilize against “Rwandan aggression” in Rutshuru territory on Thursday.

“We must be aware that no one but ourselves will save our nation and that this requires all mobilization from each of us,” he said on RTNC radio.


Associated Press writer Jean-Yves Kamale contributed in Kinshasa, Congo.

The Latest

To Top