News / Africa

Uncertainty Takes Toll on Civilians in Eastern DRC

People displaced by recent fighting in eastern Congo wait to receive aid food in Mugunga IDP camp outside of Goma, November 24, 2012.
People displaced by recent fighting in eastern Congo wait to receive aid food in Mugunga IDP camp outside of Goma, November 24, 2012.
Gabe Joselow
The rebellion in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has displaced tens of thousands of people, many of whom had been uprooted before, sometimes more than once.  As the M23 rebels prepare to withdraw from the city, the impending security vacuum could actually make the situation worse.

Mugunga camp

Thousands gather at the Mugunga camp for displaced people outside of the town of Goma.

Who Are the M23 Rebels?

  • Named for March 23, the date of a 2009 peace deal
  • Contains fighters once loyal to a rebel army who assimilated into the DRC army, then defected
  • Formed in early 2012
  • Dominated by the Tutsi ethnic group
  • Also known as the Congolese Revolutionary Army
  • UN experts say the group is backed by Rwanda, which Rwanda denies
Many have arrived in the past week, having been displaced by fighting in the area between the M23 rebels and Congolese and U.N. forces.  Families sleep on the floors of churches and schools while they wait for a more permanent place to settle.

A 53-year-old father of 11 children, Sirie Nufanjala, is tying plastic sheeting around his home in the camp to keep the rain out.

He came to the camp from Masisi in May, after the rebellion first broke out, but had to relocate again last week when Congolese soldiers retreating from Goma looted the camp and took his belongings.

“Life was hard here before,” he says, “but then later some NGOs came in and started helping us and we started living nicely.  But then the war came and things changed again."

The United Nations refugee agency estimates 140,000 people have been displaced by the recent fighting, joining hundreds of thousands of others previously uprooted.

And now, the people of Goma live in uncertain times, as M23 rebels make moves to withdraw from the city following talks with the government.

Situation could deteriorate

Christina Corbett, with the humanitarian organization Oxfam, says her group is making preparations in case the situation becomes volatile.

"What we can do is be flexible in our programming and make sure that we can get as much as possible done now so that if for any reason for a couple of days we cannot work, at least we will have some resources in place," she said.

Corbett says Oxfam has been providing water and sanitation to camps throughout the region, more or less as normal with the rebels in charge.  But she says there is always the risk of insecurity when power shifts from one group to another.

"When there is any kind of security vacuum, there is always a huge risk that someone is going to take advantage and looting and banditry and general chaos can ensue.  So these are all huge security issues and there are not any easy answers, we can not predict what is going to happen," she said.

The rebels have sent mixed signals on their intent to withdraw from the city.  While M23's military leadership under General Sultani Makenga says fighters have already begun to leave, the political wing says they will not retreat until the government meets their demands.

  • Congolese policeman in riot gear keeps an eye on Goma residents, including street children, who gathered for an anti-Kabila demonstration supported by the M23 rebel movement in Goma, DRC, November 28, 2012.
  • Congolese policeman in riot gear keeps an eye on Goma residents, including street children, who gathered for an anti-Kabila demonstration supported by the M23 rebel movement in Goma, DRC, November 28, 2012.
  • Protesters in Goma, DRC, Nov. 28, 2012 (VOA Photo / Primo-Pascal Rydahigwa)
  • Goma residents, including street children, gather for an anti-Kabila demonstration supported by the M23 rebel movement in Goma, DRC, November 28, 2012.
  • Protesters in Goma, DRC, Nov. 28, 2012 (VOA Photo / Primo-Pascal Rydahigwa)
  • A column of Congolese M23 rebels motion to the photographer not to take pictures on the Goma to Rushuru road, north of Goma, November 27, 2012.
  • Congolese M23 rebel fighters detain a man they suspect to be an FDLR (Force Democratique de Liberation du Rwanda) rebel returning from an incursion into Rwanda Near Kibumba, north of Goma Nov. 27, 2012.
  • A column of Congolese M23 rebels on the Goma to Rushuru road, north of Goma, DRC, November 27, 2012.
  • A Congolese boy walks towards Kibati, north of Goma, DRC, after being told to do so for his safety by M23 rebel fighters, November 27, 2012.
  • A boy carries a goat along a road near the town of Sake, about 27 kilometers west of Goma, DRC, November 27, 2012.
  • The South Africa contingent of the U.N. peacekeepers in Congo erect a razor wire barrier around Goma airport, DRC, November 26, 2012.
  • A woman carries her child in Minova, 45 kilometers west of Goma, DRC, November 26, 2012.

You May Like

ASEAN Ministers Set to Push for South China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs