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Home World News Washington Post World News Congo trains 3,000 new army recruits amid tensions in Rwanda

Congo trains 3,000 new army recruits amid tensions in Rwanda

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GOMA, Congo – More than 3,000 new military recruits began training on Monday as the Congolese army ramps up its fight against M23 rebels they say are backed by neighboring Rwanda.

The Rwandan government, which has repeatedly denied supporting M23, said a Congolese fighter plane had “violated Rwandan airspace” by making a brief landing at Rubavu airport. Congo later said the unarmed plane had accidentally flown into Rwandan airspace.

The M23 rebels gained notoriety more than a decade ago when they captured Goma, the largest city in eastern Congo that lies along the border with Rwanda. After a peace agreement, many of M23’s fighters were integrated into the national army. But a year ago, the group resurfaced and said the government had failed to keep its decades-long promises.

Tensions have increased as M23 rebels advanced in recent weeks and took several key cities, including Kiwanja. The Congolese government has blamed Rwanda and expelled the Rwandan ambassador about a week ago.

Representatives of the two countries met over the weekend in Angola, where they agreed to “maintain the dialogue”. Other peace talks are expected to resume in Kenya next week. However, Congolese government spokesman Patrick Muyaya said M23 representatives will not be allowed to participate unless the conditions are met.

“The M23 must withdraw from occupied positions before being reintegrated into the process, like other armed groups,” he told reporters over the weekend.

In Goma, North Kivu’s military spokesman, Lieutenant General Guillaume Djike Kaiko, said more than 3,000 people had stepped forward to join the army’s fight against M23.

Among them was Clarisse Mahamba, a 19-year-old who said she had been interested in the military since childhood.

“I see that things are not going well in our country,” she told The Associated Press. “I saw the Rwandans invade us because I was in Rumangabo. I saw how our soldiers suffered, I fled and that is why I joined the army.”

Edison Butsira, 27, has a university degree in economics but said he wants to follow the example of young Ukrainians who took up arms to defend their country.

“Young people decided to stop their activities – they left to enlist in their army to fight because Ukraine was invaded,” Butsira told AP. “I also gave up my job here and started fighting with my friends.”

Congolese President Felix Tshisekedi has also called on his citizens to mobilize against “Rwandan aggression” in Rutshuru territory.

“We must be aware that no one but ourselves will save our nation and this will require all of us to mobilize around,” he said on RTNC radio.

Associated Press writer Jean-Yves Kamale in Kinshasa, Congo, contributed.



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