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Thousands Flee as Armed Groups Clash in DR Congo

Violent Armed Clashes Erupt in DR Congo, Forcing 50,000 to Flee
Violent Armed Clashes Erupt in DR Congo, Forcing 50,000 to Flee
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In a recent update, the United Nations reported that rival armed groups clashed in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DR Congo), leading to the displacement of over 50,000 people. These clashes occurred after a six-month period of relative calm in the region.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), the conflict involved local armed groups and the M23 rebel movement in North Kivu province. The resurgence of violence since October 1 has raised concerns about a worsening humanitarian situation.

Approximately 51,000 people have been forced to leave their homes in DR Congo as a result of these clashes. Despite a recent meeting in the provincial capital Goma, where the main armed groups in North Kivu declared their readiness to lay down their arms, coordinated attacks were launched on villages in Masisi and Rutshuru territory shortly afterward.

Social media videos show militiamen claiming to be “volunteers defending the nation” while firing at homes and setting them on fire. The fighting has also disrupted traffic on a major provincial road.

“General” Guidon Shimiray, the leader of a local defense group facing UN Security Council sanctions and wanted by the Congolese government, paraded with his men in the town of Kitshanga, 50 kilometers (30 miles) from Goma. The M23 rebel group had previously driven the army out of the town in January.

Local residents in Kitshanga reported that shots were heard in the morning, prompting self-defense groups to flee, with some stealing goods from people as they left. M23 rebels subsequently took control of the area, leading to further displacement.

A nurse mentioned that hundreds of people sought refuge in a health center, including five individuals with bullet wounds.

The M23 rebel group, backed by Rwanda, has displaced more than a million people and captured significant portions of North Kivu since launching an offensive in late 2021. Despite the deployment of several thousand soldiers from East Africa to patrol a buffer zone between armed groups, conflict continues to plague the region.

Notably, the Democratic Republic of Congo’s armed forces (FARDC) recently stated that they were not involved in the resumption of fighting. The eastern part of DR Congo remains a hotbed of armed group activity, a legacy of the regional wars that occurred in the 1990s and 2000s.