M23 Expels Burundian and FDLR forces from Key Coltan-Rich Area in DRC

By Esther Muhozi
On 1 May 2024 at 04:14

The M23 armed group has expelled the Burundian forces, the Wazalendo coalition groups, and the FDLR from the Rubaya area in Masisi territory, which is the richest in coltan deposits in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

This occurred after fierce fighting in which the Congolese government forces clashed with M23 fighters in areas including Rutigita, about five kilometers from the commercial center of Rubaya, starting at twelve in the morning on April 30, 2024.

M23 fighters have since blocked roads linking this area to others including Kibabi, aiming to cut off routes for their adversaries trying to resume attacks. Some members of the Congolese government coalition had fled, but others were encircled, including those killed in this fighting.

On the morning of May 1, 2024, in the hills surrounding the commercial center of Rubaya, there was fighting between the Congolese government forces and M23 fighters. The goal was to push back the group, but it was unsuccessful.

Previously, the Rubaya mines were controlled by the Bisunzu Mining Company (SMB) of businessman Edouard Mwangachuchu, but he was stripped of control when he was charged with crimes including treason.

The DRC government handed control of the mines to the Wazalendo and FDLR groups, based on an agreement to fight M23, further bolstered by the inclusion of Burundian forces since their entry into the conflict in 2023.

Reliable sources indicate that since the Burundian forces took over these mines, the coltan mined there was transported to Bujumbura; this was based on an agreement between the two countries.

Some Congolese criticize the takeover of Rubaya, pointing out that it resulted from a mistake by the DRC government, which gave M23 the opportunity to prepare to capture more areas, adding to the many it already controls in North Kivu.