Young Congolese “Wazalendo” Fighters Take Up Arms to Defend Sake

In the Democratic Republic of Congo, a group of young people aged 18 to 25, known as the “Wazalendo” or “patriotic resistors,” have risen to defend their homeland against the M23 rebels. These rebels, allegedly backed by the Rwandan army, were successfully repelled from the town of Sake with the help of these young fighters in collaboration with the Congolese army.

Katembo Faustin, the Commander of the FAR-W Group (Forces Armées des Résistants Wazalendo), attributed their success to the unity and partnership between the Wazalendo and the government forces. “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,” he stated.

The conflict in the North Kivu region has seen an intensification of fighting between the Congolese army (FARDC), supported by the Wazalendo, and the M23 rebels. This has led many young Congolese to take up arms out of a sense of patriotic duty to defend their country. Innocent Mihigo, a fighter with the FAR-W Group, expressed his commitment, saying, “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 fervent patriotism displayed by these young fighters, human rights organizations have expressed concern over the situation. While acknowledging the dedication of the Wazalendo, they have condemned human rights violations committed by some individuals within the Congolese army. These organizations are urging the government to exercise stricter oversight and responsibility. Moïse Hangi, a LUCHA activist, emphasized this dual concern, stating, “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.”

Sake, now a near-ghost town located about twenty kilometers west of Goma, serves as a critical security buffer protecting the city of Goma. The Wazalendo resistors maintain daily patrols to prevent any rebel infiltration. On Thursday, the UN Security Council condemned recent M23 attacks that resulted in civilian casualties and injured a MONUSCO peacekeeper.

Since late 2021, the territories of Rutshuru and Masisi in North Kivu have been engulfed in conflict between the M23 rebels and the Congolese army. The situation in eastern DRC remains volatile, with no end to the fighting in sight.

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