Terrifying Exodus Amidst Conflict
The town of Bambo, situated north of Goma in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DR Congo), witnessed a harrowing exodus as M23 rebels launched a new offensive. Men, women, and children fled, carrying whatever they could as they escaped the impending danger.
Rebel Advance in Eastern DR Congo
On October 26, M23 militants initiated a fresh push north of Goma, the provincial capital, while clashes with pro-government armed groups intensified further south. This escalation in violence is a concerning development, despite the presence of peacekeepers in the region.
Militia Control in the Region
Numerous militias, including the M23, have gained control over vast territories in North Kivu province since 2021. Their dominance underscores the challenges faced by local authorities and the continued instability in the region.
Escalation of Violence in Bambo
The evening of October 25 witnessed mortar fire and automatic weapon rounds on the southern outskirts of Bambo, a town located approximately 60 kilometers (37 miles) north of Goma. On the following day, at lunchtime, shells struck the town center, causing widespread panic among the inhabitants. Thousands immediately began moving north towards government-controlled territories.
Chaos and desperation
In the midst of the conflict, hundreds of troops, police officers, and militia members were observed joining the fleeing population. Amid the chaos, Dusabe Ngurikiye, a 37-year-old mother of seven, voiced her concerns about her missing family members, reflecting the deep sense of desperation among the evacuees.
The humanitarian crisis unfolds.
Medical personnel found themselves seeking refuge in Bambo Hospital, despite the sounds of explosions in the background. The intensified conflict in the region raises concerns about the humanitarian crisis unfolding in North Kivu.
Plight of Displaced Residents
The war between the M23 rebels and government-backed militias in DR Congo has recently escalated in the city of Goma, the capital of North Kivu and home to over a million people. To date, nearly 200,000 individuals have been compelled to abandon their homes in the Rutshuru and Masisi regions, according to the United Nations’ Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Allegations and denials
Independent experts, the Kinshasa government, and a number of Western governments, including the United States and France, have all made accusations regarding Rwanda’s alleged support for the Tutsi-led M23 rebels. Rwanda has consistently denied these allegations.
In November 2022, the M23 took control of Bambo and surrounding areas, notably the village of Kishishe, where they were accused of committing a massacre that claimed the lives of 171 residents. Although the insurgent group withdrew in April, they remained approximately 20 kilometers away.
Resumed Conflict Near Goma
According to civilian and security sources, fighting that erupted on Tuesday near Kibumba, situated approximately 20 kilometers from Goma, resumed on Thursday, marking a continuation of the conflict in the region.