The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) today termed the situation in the DRC “calm but unpredictable” while the UN said about 80 000 people in the eastern part of the country have been driven from their homes following repeated clashes between the national army and rebels.
“Entire villages have been emptied of their populations. Many of those displaced, fearing further violence from the belligerents, are believed to be hiding in inaccessible areas of forests,” said MONUSCO spokesman Madnodje Mounoubai.
The new outbreak of violence is north of the Goma region where a MONUSCO unit has been helping the national army fight the M23 rebel group. The entire North Kivu province has seen little respite from fighting since UN peacekeepers helped bring relative stability and elections to much of the rest of the DRC over the past decade.
“It is a fact that M23 has been pushed from the Triple Towers area and that Goma is safe in terms of direct fire,” SANDF Joint Operations Captain Zamo Sithole said.
Worrying to the SANDF, which is providing a third of the troops making up the FIB (Forward Intervention Brigade) in eastern DRC, are reports of M23 recruiting new members with the intention of launching offensives against FARDC and the FIB.
“Any rebel group thinking of such actions is skating on thin ice and we are advising all rebel groups in the DRC to abstain from violating human rights,” Sithole said.
Over the past year the fighting with M23 in the Goma region has displaced more than 100 000 people, exacerbating an ongoing humanitarian crisis in the region which already includes 2,6 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) driven from their homes in clashes with other rebel groups and 6,4 million in need of food and emergency aid.