Tens of thousands of people are "
caught in the grip of armed violence
" in the face of the recent advance of the M23 rebellion in the east, said Saturday February 4 OCHA, the UN humanitarian coordination in the Democratic Republic of the Congo in a press release.
M23 fighters, supported and partly equipped by the Rwandan army, have continued their advance in North Kivu in recent days, while Pope Francis was visiting the capital, Kinshasa, to deliver messages of peace. .
The rebels have seized several localities including Kitshanga, a town of about 60,000 inhabitants, and Kirolirwe, respectively 90 km and 50 km northwest of Goma, causing the flight of several thousand people in recent days.
The army admitted having withdrawn from certain localities in order, according to it, to spare the civilian population.
More than 122,000 refugees
Thousands of people, helpless witnesses to the violence, continue to pay a heavy price
,” said Bruno Lemarquis, Humanitarian Coordinator for the United Nations in the DRC, in this press release.
The predominantly Tutsi M23 rebellion took up arms again at the end of 2021, after nearly ten years of exile in neighboring Rwanda and Uganda.
It seized large swathes of Rutshuru and Masisi territories, north of Goma near the Rwandan and Ugandan borders.
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Also according to the press release, “
hundreds of people who are threatened by armed individuals
” have taken refuge “
in and around a base of Monusco (the UN mission in the DRC) in Kitshanga.
On February 1, the humanitarian organization Save the Children declared that “
more than 122,000 people are said to have fled their homes in the space of a day after a new escalation in the conflict.
“The American NGO is alarmed that because of the violence of recent days “
thousands of children are left in a situation of vulnerability to abuse.
Call to lay down arms
According to OCHA, the threats posed by armed actors restrict “
the ability of the civilian population to move to escape the violence
” as well as that “
of humanitarian organizations to access people living in Kitshanga and neighboring localities.
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The Heads of State of several Central and East African countries met on Saturday at an extraordinary summit in Bujumbura to discuss the security situation in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo and launched a new appeal to armed groups in eastern DR Congo to lay down their arms and withdraw.