In April elements of the Congolese army — former rebels, most of them — mutinied, calling for the government to fully implement a stalled peace deal meant to integrate ex-rebels into the government. The fighting see-sawed back and forth until a fall ceasefire, which collapsed this month (go to the 5:00 mark). Now the so-called “M23″ rebels have seized Goma, eastern Congo’s biggest city. Here’s the latest from the U.N.’s High Commissioner for Refugees:
With recent fighting in and around Goma, UNHCR is extremely concerned about the situation of displaced people in Democratic Republic of the Congo’s North Kivu province, especially children and other vulnerable groups.
Normally, UNHCR oversees 31 displaced camps in North Kivu, hosting 108,000 people. But the fighting has meant that we and our partners have not been able to access most of these. Only Mugunga III, just to the west of the provincial capital Goma, can be currently visited.
The stepped-up fighting between government forces and rebel M23 fighters that is being reported from the town of Sake, 20 kilometers west of Goma, is causing thousands of civilians to flee the area. Our protection monitors are reporting many incidents of violence affecting civilians.
In Goma, more than 60 incidents of assault on civilians have been reported by our partners. They say eight people have been killed, and houses and shops have been looted.
According to office of the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, 16 children were injured by gunfire during the fighting between the M23 and DR Congolese armed forces. Another 500 unaccompanied minors, who were receiving assistance in Goma before the city’s takeover on Tuesday by the M23, are now newly displaced or refugees in Rwanda.
UNHCR once again appeals to all parties to the conflict to avoid actions that place civilians in harm’s way.
The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that there are more than 1.6 million internally displaced people in North and South Kivu, including 285,000 newly displaced between July and September.