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In eastern DR Congo, fighting between the Congolese army and the M23 has caused thousands of Congolese to flee towards Goma. They take refuge in camps for displaced people where living conditions are increasingly difficult.
Thousands of people have fled their villages in recent weeks in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the scene of clashes between the Congolese army and M23 rebels.
On Friday, an AFP team met Samuel, Tuyisenge, Eric, Florence and others, in one of these camps located in the locality of Kitshanga, in the territory of Masisi, where they arrived in recent days. All fled the villages of Kishishe and Bambo. At least 131 civilians, including 17 women and 12 children, were arbitrarily executed there by gunshot or stabbing at the end of November, according to the UN, which accuses the M23 rebellion.
This rebellion, mainly Tutsi, has seized in recent months large portions of the territory of Rutshuru, neighboring Masisi, north of the provincial capital of North Kivu, Goma. These rebels are also accused of rape, kidnapping and looting, committed against the civilian population in retaliation for an attack by mainly Hutu armed groups.
“They started shooting everywhere”
“The M23 rebels started shooting everywhere,” said Samuel, a very young man, who said he saw six people dead – three members of his family, including his older brother James, and three other residents of Kishishe. “I made the decision to flee and it took me a week to get to Kitshanga on foot,” he said.
Tuyisenge is a 30-year-old mother. “I was in church and I was able to escape. Some resisted and were killed. I saw nine dead,” she says, tears in her eyes. “I have seven children, but I arrived here with three. The other four have disappeared and my husband, I have no news”, she adds, surrounded by other women, who also want to tell the terror they experienced. They have nothing, just the clothes they were wearing when they ran away.
“These waves of displacements began in July. The most important took place in October”, explains to the microphone of France 24 Alessandra Giudiceandrea, head of mission of Doctors without borders in DR Congo. “Today, an estimated 300,000 displaced people live around Goma.”
Because some have been living in these camps for years, arriving at the time of a previous M23 offensive. The movement had occupied Goma for ten days at the end of 2012, before being defeated the following year by the Congolese army supported by UN peacekeepers.
On site, the humanitarian is worried about the growing overcrowding while the number of cholera cases has increased sharply over the past ten days. “We have opened disease treatment centers which are already full,” she warns.
The M23 took up arms again at the end of last year, accusing the government of Kinshasa of not having respected commitments on the demobilization of its combatants.
According to the Congolese government, UN experts as well as American and Belgian diplomats, Rwanda supports the M23. Kigali contests, accusing Kinshasa in return of supporting Hutu rebels, some of whom were involved in the genocide of Rwandan Tutsis in 1994.