In a recent report on Sunday, October 08, 2023, the United Nations revealed that violent confrontations have broken out in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), causing more than 50,000 individuals to flee their homes.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), clashes have occurred between local armed groups and the M23 rebel movement in the North Kivu province. These clashes, which commenced on October 1, have raised concerns about a potential worsening of the humanitarian situation in the region.
Approximately 51,000 people have been forced to leave their residences as a result of the conflict. Notably, prior to these hostilities, major armed groups in North Kivu had met in the provincial capital, Goma, in late September, where they had declared their readiness to disarm. However, shortly after this declaration, coordinated attacks were launched on villages in the Masisi and Rutshuru territories.
Video footage shared on social media depicts militiamen claiming to be “volunteers defending the nation” as they shoot at homes and set them on fire. The ongoing fighting has disrupted traffic on a key road in the province.
In Kitshanga, a local defense group leader known as “General” Guidon Shimiray, who faces UN Security Council sanctions and is wanted by the Congolese government, paraded with his men. The M23 rebel group had previously driven the army out of Kitshanga in January.
Residents of Kitshanga reported that local self-defense groups fled the area, with some individuals allegedly stealing goods from others. Subsequently, the M23 rebels took control of the area. Many residents have relocated to the north for their safety, while hundreds have sought refuge in a health center, including individuals with bullet wounds.
The M23 rebel group, backed by Rwanda, has gained control of significant portions of North Kivu, displacing over a million people since resuming their offensive in late 2021. Several thousand soldiers from East Africa have been deployed in combat zones this year, ostensibly to patrol a buffer zone between armed groups.
It is important to note that the DR Congo’s armed forces (FARDC) have stated that they are not involved in the renewed fighting. The eastern region of DR Congo continues to witness the activities of dozens of armed groups, a legacy of the regional wars that occurred in the 1990s and 2000s.