Local and foreign-backed forces are waging a deadly offensive in the mineral-rich heart of Africa
Some residents of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo simply call it la guerre sans fin — the war without end. One morning in August, Abigael Bahati felt it in her skin as she searched for cassava leaves close to the village of Kanombe.
“I was hungry and I had gone to look for food but I was caught,” says the 28-year-old mother of an 18-month-old baby. “They took me away and raped me,” she recalls, adding that others fled in fear of their lives.
Her attackers, she says, were rebels with the M23, an armed group that has resurfaced with renewed strength after a 10-year hiatus. It is now terrorising civilians as part of a mission to gain control of swaths of territory around Rutshuru, a town bordering Uganda and Rwanda. “They . . . go to the farms, attack people, beat you up and even cut you with knives,” Bahati adds.
The M23 — which Congolese officials, local people and analysts accuse of being backed by Rwanda — resumed fighting in November 2021 and has since been waging a brutal offensive in the resource-rich, conflict-ridden eastern Congo, causing deaths and mass displacement.
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