Thousands of people in the North Kivu province have been forced to flee their homes amid skirmishes between the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) and suspected members of the M23 rebel group, as seen in footage captured in the village of Kibati on Friday.
Displaced families could be seen walking toward the region’s capital, Goma, with everything they could carry from their former homes strapped to their backs.
“We came from the village of Kanombe, we are fleeing the attacks of the rebels of the M23. We stayed four hours in Rugari, but there were bombs falling a few meters away. We were told that the rebels had arrived at Nyesisi near Rumangabo. We decided to leave and come here,” explained refugee Maniraguha Florida.
“We saw our soldiers who were in different positions fleeing. Some didn’t even have shoes. They rested in my home. We asked them if we should also leave, and they asked us to wait, but since there were a lot of bombs and gunfire everywhere, we decided to leave the Village and save our lives. Here we came empty-handed, many were wounded by firearms,” said Ngugo Kasaza, another refugee who had fled his home.
A displacement camp was set up in the village of Kibati to create a resting place for the refugees fleeing the fighting. Maombi Gilbert, a civil servant for North Kivu said that as many as 12,605 people have arrived at the camp already.
“Since Friday, we have been receiving a lot of displaced people on this site. Just yesterday, not counting those of today we registered, we are at 2,521 households, but there are a lot of children. if you multiply the total by five, you will have 12,605 people,” he said.
“If we add the elderly to that, we fear the worst because we have no water, no food. People may starve to death in our hands,” Gilbert added.
Clashes have been on the rise between the FARDC and M23 since November last year. The rebel group is pressuring the government to honour a 2013 agreement, which would allow members of the armed forces accused of committing genocide to reintegrate with society.