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DRC: M23-controlled roads reopened and closed

DRC: M23-controlled roads reopened and closed
M23 rebels walk along a road after a ceremony marking the withdrawal of their positions ...   -  
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Moses Sawasawa/Copyright 2021 The AP. All rights reserved.

Democratic Republic Of Congo

The United Nations has said it is ready to take action on the issue of violence against women and girls in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). But the reopening of the roads lasted less than 24 hours, the provincial capital of North Kivu said on Thursday.

"The movement of goods and merchandise is now authorised" on a series of roads controlled by the M23, Lieutenant-Colonel Guillaume Ndjike, spokesman for the provincial governor, announced in a statement on Wednesday evening. Shortly after this announcement, a first convoy returned to Goma without major incident.

The measure has been "suspended until further notice", the governorate said in a new statement late on Thursday, claiming that the rebels had just "killed a driver" and "looted all the goods".

Since late October 2022, the M23 has seized large swathes of North Kivu, cutting off traffic on the province's main roads.

"I have just arrived (in Goma) after enormous suffering. We stayed there for two months, sleeping under the vehicles," Zawadi Kavira, a passenger stranded in Mweso, on the other side of the front lines, about 100km north of Goma, told AFP on Thursday.

Like her, dozens of transporters and passengers coming from the north found themselves blocked by the clashes. "When we arrived in Mweso, we were blocked because of the fighting in Kitshanga," said one driver.

This town of about 60,000 inhabitants came under rebel control on 26 January. Since then, the M23 has been advancing and continuing to tighten its grip on Goma, a city of more than a million inhabitants, wedged between the Rwandan border to the east, Lake Kivu to the south and the rebels to the north and west.

On 28 February, a group of deputies from North Kivu and the provincial representative of the Fédération des entreprises du congo (FEC), in two separate letters, asked the governor and the president of the Republic to reopen the roads in order to "allow the evacuation of foodstuffs to the town of Goma", the FEC said.

The governor had responded positively to their request "in the interest of the population, which is suffering from the effects of the war", before reversing his decision the following day.

The M23 (for "Movement of 23 March") is a rebellion with a Tutsi majority that remained dormant for nearly ten years and reappeared at the end of 2021. Kinshasa accuses Rwanda of supporting it, which has been corroborated by UN experts.

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