Last updated on March 14th, 2023 at 08:48 am
According to sources, fighting broke out on Friday between M23 militiamen and government forces close to the city of Goma in the eastern DR Congo, where a European mercy flight arrived in the afternoon. The mission is the first part of an airlift that the European Union said would help the city last Saturday.
On Friday in the late afternoon, the aircraft touched down with 35 metric tons of supplies, including tents, mattresses, and medical gear. The EU envoy to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Jean-Marc Chataigner, told reporters while he was standing on the tarmac of the Goma airport that more aircraft would arrive over the course of the following week.
Since coming out of hiding at the end of 2021, the M23 rebels have taken over large parts of North Kivu province. This puts the city of more than a million people in greater danger. Goma is bordered to the east by Rwanda and to the south by Lake Kivu. The M23 threatens to shut off all road connections to the city by controlling a large portion of the area to the north and west of the city.
After a mostly peaceful day, fighting broke out early on Friday near the village of Murambi, which is less than 30 kilometers (18 miles) west of Goma. Murambi is the last line of defense for the city before the village of Sake. Leopold Busanga, who works for Sake’s civil society groups, said that the people were starting to worry again.
A Goma official said that fighting was also seen about 70 kilometers (43 miles) to the north. As a result of the violence, hundreds of thousands of people have been forced to leave their homes, according to a statement made on Friday by the UNHCR.
According to UNHCR, nearly 300,000 people left North Kivu in February alone. Since March of last year, the region has been home to more than 800,000 displaced individuals. According to Chataigner, 600,000 people visited Goma and the surrounding region in the recent months. Bruno Aubert, France’s ambassador to the DRC, said: “What’s happening in eastern Congo is intolerable” while standing by his side.
Many of the armed groups that roam eastern DR Congo are the result of two regional wars that erupted at the turn of the 20th century, including the M23, whose name means “March 23 Movement.” In 2012, a group led by Tutsis briefly took over Goma, but a joint Congolese-UN offensive drove them out.
The M23, on the other hand, said that the Congolese government broke a promise to let its fighters join the army. This led to new fighting in late 2021.
Then, beginning in vast portions of North Kivu last summer, the rebels began to advance despite international pressure to lay down their weapons.
The DRC says that its smaller neighbor, Rwanda, is helping the group. Rwanda denies this, and the two countries have sent a combined force to the area to help keep things stable. The United States, several other western nations, independent UN specialists, and Rwanda are all in agreement that the M23 is supported by Rwanda. Several cease-fire attempts have been made in recent months; the most recent was scheduled to start on Tuesday.
A group of people from the UN Security Council are in the DRC for three days to look at the situation. On Saturday, the team will fly to Goma and meet with President Felix Tshisekedi there.