13 South African Soldiers Injured in Clashes with M23 Rebels in DRC

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Thirteen South African soldiers have been injured in intense fighting with M23 rebels in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The clashes occurred as part of ongoing efforts to stabilize the eastern region of the country, which has been plagued by violence from various armed groups.

The soldiers, who are part of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO), were engaged in a firefight with the M23 rebel group. The confrontation took place in the volatile North Kivu province, where M23, along with other armed factions, have been active.

The South African National Defense Force (SAND) says that 13 soldiers deployed in North Kivu Province under the Southern African Development Community (SADC) mission were on Thursday injured in fighting with the March 23 Movement (M23) rebels.

In a statement released on Friday by Dlamini Siphiwe, SAND head of communications, the soldiers were injured during fighting in Sake town located about 27 kilometres away from Goma city. According to the statement, one of the soldiers was fatally wounded.

The statement indicates that the casualties were rushed to Goma International Hospital for treatment. The statement also admits that SAND’s two armoured personnel carrier (APC) vehicles were destroyed during the battle.   

On Saturday, the South African National Defense Union released a statement accusing SAND of failure to release detailed information about the incident. In a statement, the union consoled the family of one of the soldiers who was killed during the fight on Thursday, a death that SAND is yet to either confirm or deny.    

Tension is currently high in North Kivu province following renewed fierce fighting between Armed Forces of Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) soldiers and coalition. FARDC and the coalition are blocking M23 rebels from capturing the town of Sake in Masisi territory and Kanyabayonga in the north of Rutshuru territory.  

Fighting in Kanyabayonga has caused displacement of locals since Thursday in neighbouring areas of Miriki, Buleusa, Kirumba and Kayina.

On Friday, Lawrence Kanyuka, M23 rebels’ political spokesperson released a statement claiming that M23 fighters burnt the third armoured vehicle belonging to SAND in Mubambiro during the fighting. 

Close to five months after the deployment of foreign troops under SADC in North Kivu province, no success has been registered in pushing M23 from the captured positions. In March 2022, M23, led by Bertrand Bisimwa and Gen Sultan Makenga, initiated a conflict against the government.  

The DRC 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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