The army accused the 1er December the M23 of having massacred at least 50 civilians in this village in North Kivu, a toll that the government assessed the following day at “over a hundred” of dead.
Residents interviewed by telephone by AFP said they had to, at the request of the rebels, bury the victims in mass graves.
The rebel movement rejected the accusations of the Congolese authorities and acknowledged the death of eight civilians in this village, killed according to him by “lost bullets” during fights with militiamen.
Minister Paluku and government spokesman Muyaya said the new figures had been communicated to them by civil society and a “organization that brings together all communities” of the region.
“Each community was able to identify, through the antennas which are in Kishishe and surroundings, the people who died”explains Julien Paluku. “One community alone has over 105 people killed,” he adds.
“We have around 300 dead”in response to a question from AFP, “people who are known, regularly inhabitants of Kishishe, who have nothing to do with the FDLR (Hutu rebels of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda), nothing to do with the Mai-Mai” (community militiamen), he said.
In his introductory remarks, the Minister of Industry talks about something “272 civilians killed”.
“There are children who have been killed, in a church, in a hospital”says Patrick Muyaya, 17 “according to the first elements given”.
The minister explains “difficulties in cross-checking all the figures”, because “the area is under M23 occupation”. “Consolidation work is in progress”, he adds. Investigations have been requested, underline the two ministers.
The M23, a former Tutsi rebellion defeated in 2013, took up arms again at the end of last year and in recent months has conquered large portions of territory north of Goma, capital of North Kivu province.
Kinshasa accuses Kigali of providing support for this rebellion, which UN experts and American officials have also pointed out, but Rwanda consistently denies it, accusing Kinshasa, which also denies, of collusion with the FDLR, a movement formed by certain perpetrators of the Tutsi genocide in 1994 in Rwanda.
On December 5, Washington announced that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, in an appeal the day before to Rwandan President Paul Kagame, had urged him to stop “all support” to the M23, expressing “its deep concern about the impact of the fighting on Congolese civilians, who have been killed, injured, or displaced”.
Antony Blinken also called for respect for the agreement negotiated through Angola.
A November 23 summit in Luanda ordered a ceasefire followed by the withdrawal of the M23 from captured positions, but no withdrawal has been observed to date.
In memory of the victims of Kishishe, the Congolese government decreed three days of national mourning, which ended on Monday, December 5. In the evening in Goma, young people gathered in the city center and silently placed candles on the ground forming a map of the DRC.