Eastern DRC: continued population displacement in the face of the M23 offensive

March 10, 2024
Goma, DR Congo

The displacement of populations caused by an offensive launched by the M23 rebellion continues in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the rebels have gained ground, according to eyewitness accounts.
On Wednesday March 06, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimated that over 100,000 people had been newly displaced by the fighting, which has since continued in Rutshuru territory.
After eight years of dormancy, the M23, a predominantly Tutsi rebellion, took up arms again at the end of 2021 and, with the support of the Rwandan army, seized large swathes of North Kivu, a province of almost 60,000 km2 bordering Rwanda and Uganda and divided into six territories.
In February, the most violent clashes were concentrated around Sake, a town in Masisi territory some 20 km west of Goma, considered a strategic lock on the road to the provincial capital.
But at the beginning of March, the rebels launched an offensive some 70 km north of Goma, towards the north of the neighboring Rutshuru territory, which they occupy for the most part.

The rebels have been here since Saturday morning and have taken up residence in an army position after the latter’s departure”, said an official of Virunga Park, whose base is in Rwindi, on Sunday on condition of anonymity. “This morning, it’s calm”, he added.
Some of the area’s inhabitants fled several days ago towards Kanyabayonga, to the northwest, while others headed for Vitshumbi, to the northeast, on the southern shore of Lake Edouard.
But fearing the rebel advance, the population has also begun to flee Vitshumbi. “Some inhabitants are fleeing across the lake” to towns further north, said one of them on Sunday morning.
Further west, towards Walikale territory, the rebels have also advanced. “There’s a psychosis (…) We’re afraid that the M23 will arrive here”, said a resident of Pinga, a town in this territory which, he said, had seen many displaced people arrive this week.

Humaniterre with AFP

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