East DR Congo clashes displace 37,000 people

People attempt to cross the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Ugandan border with their belongings to seek refuge after clashes between the Congolese army and the M23, in Bunagana, 100 kilometers from the city of Goma in eastern DRC, on 2 April, 2022. Guerchom NDEBO / AFP

Recent clashes between the army and presumed fighters of the March 23 Movement (M23)  in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have displaced 37 000 people, two NGOs said on Friday.

In a joint statement, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) said people in dire need of aid are fleeing fighting that erupted Sunday in Rutshuru territory in North Kivu province.

Clashes between the army and M23, a primarily Congolese Tutsi group, have since spread close to the provincial capital Goma.

M23 briefly seized the city in late 2012 before the army quelled the rebellion the following year.

But the militia resumed fighting this year, accusing the Congolese government of failing to respect a 2009 agreement under which its fighters were to be incorporated into the army.

Caitlin Brady, the NRC’s DR Congo director, said the latest violence had forced thousands of families to flee and more were reported to be on their way.

“This new escalation of violence is threatening the humanitarian community’s capacity to provide timely support in a region with 1.9 million people have already been displaced,” she said.

According to the NGOs, about 26,000 people have fled Rutshuru territory since May 22. Another 11 000 people have fled Nyiragongo territory, another area of North Kivu which has recently seen clashes, since May 24.

Some displaced families have taken shelter in churches and schools in Goma and urgently need assistance, the NRC and IRC warned.