Rebel attacks force thousands to flee in African state

Estimated read time 3 min read

The escalating clashes between DR Congo forces and the M23 militant group have reportedly displaced at least 150,000 people

The eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo) has descended into chaos, with thousands of civilians fleeing renewed assaults by the M23 rebel group, one of the most active militant coalitions in the African nation.

The militants detonated explosives in Sake, North Kivu which is about 27 kilometers (16 miles) from the conflict-ridden provincial capital, Goma, the Associated Press (AP) reported on Wednesday, citing locals. The country’s army confirmed in a statement that its soldiers were fighting back attacks by the rebels around Sake. According to Reuters, a rocket landed near a university in Goma, but no casualties were reported.

Marc Sere, an aid worker in Sake, told the AP that another humanitarian staff member was killed in Wednesday’s bombing.

“Humanitarians had to stop actions in this city for security reasons because bombs were falling at any time,” Sere said.

The Congolese government has vowed that it will not allow M23 to take control of Goma, located on Lake Kivu near the Rwandan border.

In response, the group issued a statement claiming that its fighters, carrying out “defensive maneuvers,” have no plans of seizing the town, which they briefly captured in 2012.

“However, artillery and air attacks targeting our forces and/or indiscriminate shelling of civilian populations will be dealt with at their source,” the armed coalition warned.

The renewed clashes between DR Congo forces and M23 since the beginning of February have displaced at least 150,000 people, more than half of whom are children, according to the non-profit Save the Children. The UN has also estimated that at least 130,000 people in various areas of the troubled North Kivu Masisi area alone have been forced out of their homes in the last two weeks due to the fighting.

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African state shuts border with neighbor for ‘backing’ rebels

“This risks isolating Goma, a city of 2 million people, which also hosts more than 500,000 displaced people,” UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters in New York City on Wednesday, calling for humanitarian access to address the urgent needs of the affected population.

President Felix Tshisekedi, who was reelected for a second five-year term in the Central African nation’s December election, has pledged to resolve the protracted conflict with rebel factions after demanding the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers. MONUSCO troops have been accused of failing to protect civilians while brutally suppressing local protesters who oppose their presence in the country. Tshisekedi who alleges the militants are backed by Rwanda has also threatened to declare war on the neighbouring state for arming the M23 insurgents, a claim supported by a UN expert panel. Rwanda has denied the allegations.

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