Democratic Republic of Congo: Displaced people caught up in fighting west of Goma
Goma/Paris, 22 May 2013 – Fighting with heavy weapons between the Congolese army (FARDC) and the rebel group M23 to the west of the provincial capital Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, resumed yesterday. Many people who were already displaced from their homes after earlier waves of violence are now caught between the shelling and gunfire.
"Mugunga, Lac Vert and Buhimba camps are located on the road between Goma and Sake and have been in the middle of the shelling for the past two days." said Thierry Goffeau, Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) head of mission in North Kivu. "The road between Goma and Sake is strategically located, but fighting in such close proximity to people’s homes is endangering the lives of thousands of vulnerable people."
Six shells landed in the area of Mugunga camps on Tuesday, injuring at least four people. An MSF team was able to transfer these people to a nearby hospital facility supported by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Towns in the area were affected by the use of heavy artillery with several people injured. The district of Ndosho, near Goma, took the brunt of shelling with at least three people killed and more than a dozen wounded.
Since the shooting started, residents of Mugunga III camp fled to other camps nearby or further into the city of Goma in search of safety. "A quarter of the camp has emptied. People are continuing to leave, afraid they’ll end up trapped. Those who remain are distraught, not knowing where to go or how to react. People are panicking, " said Thierry Goffeau.
The active fighting and positioning of the combatants so close to the camp has forced MSF to suspend its activities in Mugunga and Bulengo camps. The team is assessing population movements and is ready to intervene if necessary.
Last November, M23 launched a first attack on the city of Goma and Sake, forcing many people to flee and seek refuge in camps west of Goma. The fall of Goma ended ten days later and negotiations with the government of Joseph Kabila started.
Renewed fighting between the FARDC and M23 comes ahead of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s visit to the country and the establishment of a special UN intervention brigade, which for the first time has a mandate to carry out targeted offensive operations against rebel groups in eastern DRC.
In light of this, MSF calls on all parties to refrain from using force around IDP camps and in areas housing civilians.
MSF provides basic and specialist healthcare in the province of North Kivu, working in health centres and mobile clinics. MSF supports referral hospitals in Mweso, Pinga, Masisi, Rutshuru, Walikale and Kitchanga.