Congo: Thousands Flee as M23 Rebels Launch a Rocket


Sudan Events – Sumaya Sayed

A rocket landed near a university in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s city of Goma on Wednesday as thousands more civilians fled a fresh advance by M23 rebels that threatens to isolate the strategic urban hub in the east of the country.

There were no casualties from the strike, which blasted a crater into an area of open ground in the Lac Vert neighbourhood northwest of Goma, but the attack underscored the potential threat to the city of around two million people.

“This shows that M23 is targeting Goma now, they want to kill people in Goma. The government has to do something to stop M23’s progress,” 25-year student Sophonie Bayonga said at the scene.

In a region already plagued with militia violence, M23 rebels launched a major new offensive in March 2022, sparking a conflict that has led to military intervention and mediation efforts by East African regional leaders.

They brokered a ceasefire last year but it has been repeatedly violated.

Clashes between the rebels, army forces and self-defence groups that support them have escalated recently, forcing entire communities in Masisi and Rutshuru territories to flee to perceived areas of greater safety on the outskirts of Goma.

The government this week promised that it would not let Goma, situated on Lake Kivu close to the border with Rwanda, fall into M23 hands.

On Wednesday, M23 said in a statement that this was not its goal and described its actions as “defensive manoeuvres”.

Civilians have borne the brunt of the violence, with many killed in bombings and reprisal attacks. Around 42,000 people have been displaced from Masisi alone since February 2, the UN’s humanitarian office OCHA said on Tuesday.

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