Civilians are paying a high price for the worsening conflict in eastern DRC:


Escalating violence forced nearly 300,000 people to flee the Rutshuru and Masisi areas of North Kivu province last month, UNHCR says.

The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has warned of a growing humanitarian catastrophe in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where fighting between government forces and armed groups has displaced hundreds of thousands of people.

UNHCR spokesman Matthew Saltmarsh said on Friday that violence in February had prompted nearly 300,000 people to flee across the Rutshuru and Masisi areas of DRC’s North Kivu province.

“Citizens continue to pay the heavy and bloody price of the conflict, including women and children who narrowly escaped the violence and now sleep exhausted and traumatized in the open in spontaneous or organized locations,” he told reporters in Geneva.

- Advertisement -

Saltmarsh expressed “great alarm” and said UNHCR and its partners are stepping up humanitarian aid, but access to displaced persons in some parts of North Kivu remains difficult due to the violence.

In mid-January, the UN aid agency OCHA said 12 humanitarian organizations had been forced to curtail their operations in parts of Ituri province due to increased attacks.

Dozens of armed groups roam the vast, mineral-rich east of the DRC, many of them a legacy of two regional wars that erupted in the late 20th century.

In 2021, the government declared martial law in North Kivu and neighboring Ituri and placed them under military rule in an attempt to address the security crisis – but the violence continues.

At least 36 people were killed in a nighttime attack on the village of Mukondi, 30 km south of the city of Beni in North Kivu province. A local official and the head of a civil society group said the attackers were believed to be members of the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), a Ugandan armed group in eastern DRC that has pledged allegiance to ISIL (ISIS) and regularly conducts deadly raids . on villages.

- Advertisement -

Separately, sources quoted by AFP news agency said clashes broke out again on Friday between the armed group M23 and government forces near Goma, the capital of North Kivu.

The fighting took place near the village of Murambi, less than 30 km west of Goma, local officials said.

- Advertisement -

Murambi is the last settlement before the city of Sake and is considered to be the city’s last stronghold.

“The population is starting to panic again,” Leopold Busanga, a spokesman for civil society groups in Sake, told AFP.

Further north, about 70 km (43 mi) from Goma, fighting was also reported, an official there said.

Goma has been under threat since the M23 launched an offensive last year after coming out of hibernation in 2021. The DRC accuses neighboring Rwanda of supporting the group, something Kigali denies, and regional countries have deployed a joint force to stabilize the region. Several ceasefire attempts have failed to stop the violence.

Reports of the fighting came hours before the expected arrival in Goma of a relief mission, the first in an airlift announced by the European Union on Saturday to aid the besieged city.

The trading center of more than a million people that has also seen an influx of thousands of displaced people is located on the shore of Lake Kivu.

Most land routes to Goma are now cut off, making flights the only reliable way to bring in supplies. The EU plane has emergency shelters, medicines and hygiene kits on board.

A UN Security Council delegation arrived late Thursday in the DRC for a three-day visit to assess the situation in Goma. The team will meet President Felix Tshisekedi and fly to the city on Saturday.

Share This Article
Leave a comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *