The March 23 Movement (M23) rebels have asked civilian miners operating in Rubaya Coltan site in Masisi territory, North Kivu province to return and continue with work.   

The rebels on Tuesday evening announced capture of Rubaya town that also hosts Rubaya Coltan site following intense fighting with Armed Forces of Democratic Republic of Congo -FARDC soldiers.  

Fighting started from Karuba, Mushaki, Kagundu and surrounding areas.  But in the process, M23 rebels launched fire from Kabashumba, Bihambwe and Kishusha thus blocking all major exit routes from. This led FARDC and the coalition under their umbrella Wazalendo (patriots) to retreat.  

On Wednesday morning, M23 released a video of some of their fighters jogging along one of the streets in Rubaya town.  The The DR Congo government is yet to release a statement about M23 claims. 

The capture created fear that locals who were earning a living could starve since the situation is volatile.   But on Wednesday afternoon, Bertrand Bisimwa, the M23 rebels’ President released a statement urging miners to return to the mines and work.  

Bisimwa argued that M23 was forced to advance to the area after FARDC and mercenaries soldiers from Burundi launched an attack on their positions on Tuesday morning (April, 30, 2024). 

Bisimwa also says that M23 had a week ago protested Burundian mercenaries and FARDC’s presence in the area and handing over bladed weapons to some people to kill civilians. Bisimwa says that all miners are allowed to return to the site and do their work because it is not a military target and M23 had no plans of capturing the site had it not been the provocation from FARDC and coalition. 

Bisimwa allowed miners to move away from armed groups and other enemy forces which he says threaten the tranquility of the population in the area.   “The fighting which took place in the surroundings of the locality of Rubaya had no connection with the desire to take possession of the mining deposits abounding in this locality” he said. “More than a week ago, we denounced the presence in this sector of a training center for armed groups by the National Defense Forces of Burundi, in infiltration techniques and the handling of bladed weapons to silently kill civilians and blame them on our organization. Just yesterday, early in the morning, our forces came under attack from the enemy’s heavy army and infantry in Mushaki, Karuba, KAGUNDU and surrounding areas. In reaction, the Congolese Revolutionary Army pursued the enemy to neutralize it in its entrenchments from which it endangered the lives of our populations.  Consequently, we ask the operators of the Rubaya mining deposit to continue their activities quietly because this site is not a military objective. They should, however, move away from armed groups and other enemy forces which threaten the tranquility of the population in this sector.”,

Tension remains high in Rubaya and surrounding areas. Though a lull of gun sound was experienced on Wednesday morning, crackling of bullets was heard in the afternoon hours in the hills around the town, according to reliable sources in the area.   

M23 rebels continue to conquer more positions in Rutshuru, Masisi and Nyiragongo territories despite resistance from FARDC and coalition. Four months after deployment of foreign troops under Southern African Development Community (SADC) in North Kivu province, success has been registered to uproot M23 rebels from the captured positions. 

  In March 2022, M23, led by Bertrand Bisimwa and General Sultan Makenga, initiated the fight against the government.  The DR Congo government accuses Rwanda of supporting M23, although both Rwanda and M23 vehemently deny these claims. The rebels assert that they are fighting against corruption, xenophobia and discrimination within the leadership of DR Congo.


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