In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a group of young people aged 18 to 25, known as the “Wazalendo” or “patriotic resistors,” have taken up arms to defend their country. Teaming up with the Congolese army, they claim to have successfully pushed back the M23 rebels, who are supported by the Rwandan army, from the town of Sake.

Katembo Faustin, Commander of the FAR-W Group (Forces Armées des Résistants Wazalendo), emphasized the unity and collaboration that led to their success:

“We succeeded in repelling the M23 because we united with the government and, as Wazalendo, we came together to push back the enemy. I can assure you that the M23 will never reach here again. We are doing everything to protect Sake.”

The fighting between the FARDC (Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo), supported by the Wazalendo, and the M23 rebels has intensified in the North Kivu region. Many young Congolese have taken up arms, driven by a sense of duty to defend their homeland.

Innocent Mihigo, a fighter of the FAR-W Group, expressed his motivations:

“I decided to take up arms to defend my country, honor the national flag, and give hope to my fellow Congolese. They must understand that we are fighting to defend the nation with love and unity.”

Despite the patriotic fervor, human rights organizations have raised concerns. They acknowledge the dedication of these young fighters but condemn the human rights violations committed by some alongside the Congolese army. These organizations are calling for the government to exercise greater oversight and responsibility.

Moïse Hangi, a LUCHA activist, highlighted the dual nature of the situation:

“Young people defending their land against foreign aggression are justified, but it must be noted that some are committing acts contrary to the law. The government needs to supervise and ensure these young people are monitored.”

The town of Sake has been largely deserted for months, now resembling a ghost town. Situated about twenty kilometers west of Goma, Sake is considered the last security barrier protecting Goma.

The Wazalendo resistors patrol daily to prevent any infiltration. On Thursday, the UN Security Council strongly condemned the recent M23 rebel attacks, which resulted in civilian casualties and injured a MONUSCO peacekeeper. Since late 2021, the territories of Rutshuru and Masisi in North Kivu have been embroiled in a conflict between the M23 rebels and the FARDC. The situation remains tense in eastern DRC, and the fighting seems far from over.

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