Over the past two weeks, the threat of an attack on Goma – the provincial capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s restive North Kivu province – by M23 rebels has loomed. The United Nations and the Congolese government army (FARDC) have deployed tanks and other heavy weaponry around the city in a coordinated effort to repel any possible attack.
A relative calm existed in the area as negotiations took place, with M23 and the FARDC consolidating positions. But on Tuesday, July 24, battles erupted again, reaching the town of Kibumba, just 25km from Goma and the stage of major UN and FARDC deployments.
Fighting continues, causing thousands to flee their homes once again. Since the conflict erupted in May, refugees have fled over the border to Rwanda and Uganda, with many thousands more displaced within eastern Congo. The latest wave of fighting has brought some 8,000 people towards Goma as their villages become the scene of shelling and heavy weapons fire.
M23 rebels, who draw many of their ranks from the Tutsi ethnic group, are allegedly backed by the Rwandan government, which is accused of fomenting unrest in the mineral-rich North Kivu province. The Rwandan government denies supporting the rebels.
Current unrest in the DR Congo has roots in the ethnic and political wounds dating back to Rwanda’s 1994 genocide. Presently, M23 rebels deny a desire to march on Goma, but as fighting rages ever closer to the city, tensions are rising.