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DR Congo: Goma City under threat as thousands flee M23 rebel advance


DR Congo: Goma City under threat as thousands flee M23 rebel advance.

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

A rocket landed near a university in the Congolese city of Goma on Wednesday as thousands of civilians fled a fresh advance by M23 rebels that threatens to isolate the city of around two million people.

There were no casualties from the strike, which blasted a crater into open ground in the Lac Vert neighbourhood, but it underscored the potential threat to Goma, a strategic urban hub in Democratic Republic of Congo’s conflict-ridden east.

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, UN under-secretary-general for peace operations, described the situation around Goma as “very worrying” after an official visit to the province this week.

“It raises the risk of a regional explosion,” he said on Wednesday, calling on the M23 to immediately cease its offensive and for diplomatic efforts to resume with all actors in the region.

He called for a reinforcement of Congolese forces in Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu, the three provinces that a UN peacekeeping force is due to leave this year as part of its disengagement from the country.

Congo’s government this week promised that it would not let Goma, which is situated on Lake Kivu close to the border with Rwanda, fall into M23 hands, as it did briefly in 2012.

The M23 said in a statement on Wednesday 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 by the fighting since Friday, the UN’s humanitarian office Ocha said.

The M23 launched a major offensive in 2022, which led to military intervention and mediation efforts by East African regional leaders.

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

Congo, Western powers and a UN expert group have said the rebel group is supported by neighbouring Rwanda, which Rwanda denies.

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