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M23 rebels ban production of potent gin in DRC

March 23 Movement (M23) rebels have imposed a ban on the production and marketing of local gin in areas under their control within Rutshuru territory, North Kivu province, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

Referred to locally as Kanyanga, Lutuku, Mbandule, or Kabrama, the gin is typically crafted using a variety of ingredients such as bananas, molasses, millet, and maize flour. It serves as a staple within the local community and is also traded in neighbouring regions like Goma.

In a letter, M23 administrator for Rutshuru territory, Prince Mpabuka Ndungutse said the ban is effective as of April 22, 2024. Mpabuka cites health concerns as the primary motivation behind the decision, urging locals to comply with the directive. As of now, neither the local populace nor the government has issued any formal response to M23’s prohibition on local gin production and sales.

This marks the first instance of the M23 rebels instituting such a ban within their controlled areas in North Kivu. The conflict between M23, led by figures like Bertrand Bisimwa and Gen Sultan Makenga, and the government has persisted since March 2022. The rebels have made significant territorial gains in Rutshuru, Nyiragongo, and Masisi territories within North Kivu province.

Despite government efforts and the deployment of foreign troops under the Southern African Development Community (SADC), progress in reclaiming these areas remains elusive. Accusations from the DRC government point to Rwanda’s alleged support of M23, a claim vehemently denied by both Rwanda and the rebel group.

M23 maintains that its insurgency is aimed at combatting corruption, xenophobia, and discrimination within the leadership of DRC.

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