AFRICA/DR CONGO - North Kivu: Missionary warns of conflicting reports and media campaigns

Friday, 10 February 2023 civil war   war crimes  

Kinshasa (Agenzia Fides) - "As far as we know, the rebels are still advancing towards Goma. The M23 militias are currently 35 km from the capital of North Kivu," says Pierre Kabeza, a former trade unionist now representing the rights of Congolese children and former president of the youth associations of the South Kivu region in the east of the country, to Fides.
Meanwhile, the Congolese army had announced that they had rejected the M23 guerrilla offensive on the town of Sake (see Fides, 9/2/2023). According to journalistic sources, they accompanied the Congolese military to Sake, where calm was reportedly restored after part of the population fled when the rebel advance was announced. "Yesterday (February 9) I received videos of civilians fleeing Sake, mostly women and children," confirms Pierre Kabeza.
Radio Okapi, which works with the UN Stabilization Mission in Congo (MONUSCO), reports on observers from the Bambo region reporting that the M23 militias are said to be committing serious violence against civilians there. People have fled in large numbers to Kibirizi, Kirima, Bambo and other places, and eyewitnesses report that the rebels in the area are carrying out arbitrary executions and atrocities against civilians.
A missionary with many years of experience in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, meanwhile, calls for caution with media reports. "We have to be careful," Italian missionary Father Loris Cattani of the Xaverian Missionaries tells Fides.
"As in every war, there are also propaganda campaigns and forms of media warfare by the various warring parties in North Kivu," and he gives an example: "Rumors and videos" are intended to "prove the presence of Russian mercenaries working alongside the fight Congolese army". "A presence that has never been confirmed, unless one confuses the technicians and pilots of planes and helicopters of the Armed Forces, and probably also MONUSCO, with members of the Wagner militias". (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides, 10/2/2023)