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SADC army chiefs visit Goma amid clashes between DRC army and rebels

DRC troops   -  
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Democratic Republic Of Congo

Top army officials from the southern African regional bloc visited the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Saturday, amid ongoing fighting between government troops and M23 rebels.

The chiefs of defence staff of Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries held a high-level meeting in the city of Goma, capital of the embattled North Kivu province.

"It was a question of assessing the progress of operations on the ground, and fine-tuning strategies for strengthening them,” said Congolese army spokesperson, General Sylvain Ekenge.

He added that the visit by the chiefs of staff was “a strong signal of the commitment and determination of SADC and Burundi alongside the DRC”.

It was their first coordination meeting since the deployment of SADC troops in North Kivu and came two days after SADC armoured vehicles were hit during an M23 attack.

On Friday, as generals visited the strategic town of Saké, the rebels threw five bombs, killing and wounding several people.

"We welcome their presence here, and think it has enabled them to understand the situation, having experienced the reality on the ground in terms of insecurity, “ said Placide Nzilamba, a member of Goma civil society.

But some residents of Goma were not sure that the visit would make a difference in terms of the ongoing fighting.

“The future of the Congo in terms of security can only come from internal strategies given by the FARDC (Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo) and not by the SADC countries," said Muisa Christian.

The M23, with alleged ties to Rwanda, launched an offensive in 2021 and have since captured large swathes of North Kivu province, forcing people to flee their homes.

Aid organisations fear a new humanitarian crisis in the region, as their advance threatens to cut off Goma city and leave millions of people struggling for food and medical help.

The eastern part of the DRC has been plagued by violence from local and foreign armed groups for nearly 30 years.

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