Amid Conflict.. The Strategic Significance of Sake in Eastern DRC

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Recent days have witnessed escalating clashes in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), particularly near the town of Sake. Here, skirmishes between the Congolese army, aided by local militias known as the Wazalendos, and the M23 rebels, backed by the Rwandan army, have intensified. Situated approximately twenty kilometers west of Goma, Sake holds significant strategic importance as a key checkpoint along the route to the provincial capital.

In the North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), sporadic gunfire echoed around the town of Sake on Wednesday, February 14th. The clashes between the Congolese army, assisted by local militias, the Wazalendos, and the M23 rebels, supported by the Rwandan army, have contributed to a deteriorating security situation in the area over the past ten days.

Sake serves as a pivotal crossroads, with three main thoroughfares emanating from its vicinity. To the north lies the route leading to Butembo, while the western road extends to Masisi Centre and Walikale. The southern direction leads to Bukavu, the capital of South Kivu.

Recent disruptions to these routes, primarily orchestrated by the M23 rebels, have severely impacted the supply chain of essential goods to Goma. Staple commodities such as beans, cassava, potatoes, and milk, sourced from the northeastern Masisi territory and transported to Goma via trucks, cars, or motorcycles, have faced impediments due to road closures.

The capture of Sake underscores a strategic objective: to further encircle and isolate Goma, a city with a population of approximately two million inhabitants. This move is compounded by ongoing interruptions along the route to the provincial capital from the north, a consequence of the M23’s persistent presence in the Nyiragongo and Rutshuru territories over the past two years.

The ramifications of these disruptions are palpable. Shortages of essential commodities have become increasingly prevalent in Goma’s markets, exacerbating price inflation. Just a few weeks ago, five sweet potatoes sold for 1000 Congolese francs. Today, prices have doubled.

Soukaina Sghir

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