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An emergency update from our partners in eastern DRC

Families fleeing Saké on foot
seen from a car, families with bundles of belongings walk alongside the road to flee their town

In eastern DRC, civilians are caught in the crossfire of escalating conflict between the Congolese army and the rebel group M23. Clashes have been intensifying since the start of the year, with many civilians killed as the groups exchange fire near civilian homes and infrastructure, including schools and hospitals.

  • Published

    22 February 2024

Over the past few weeks, M23 – allegedly backed by Rwanda – has violently seized key towns and villages around Goma, the capital of North Kivu province. This resurgence is the latest development in a long conflict that has already caused massive loss and displacement across North Kivu.

Now, thousands more people have been forced to flee their homes, and access to basic needs is deteriorating. The violence is also rekindling tension and mistrust between communities in the region, straining relations between regional nations, and undermining crucial dialogue efforts.

Saidi, Coordinator of the Bureau de Soutien pour la Consolidation de la Paix (BS-RDC), tells us:

“This resurgence of conflict jeopardises decades of peacebuilding efforts in the Great Lakes region and threatens the lives and well-being of thousands of innocent civilians.”

BS-RDC and the National Partnership for Children and Youth in Peacebuilding (NPCYP) are Peace Direct’s local peacebuilding partners based in Goma. Despite the danger they face, both are still working to support civilians and peacebuilders in the region. Read their updates below, and share a message of solidarity with them today.

Erasme and Steven, NPCYP’s Programmes Director and Coordinator, tell us that clashes since January have affected 40km of territory to the west of Goma. Many people were killed or injured when artillery shells hit civilian populations in the town of Saké, including a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs). More than 135,000 people from Saké and its four IDP camps fled western Goma over just 5 days, without any humanitarian assistance. NPCYP say 50% of the displaced from Saké are with host families, while the other 50% are sheltering in the city’s schools, churches and displacement camps.

seen from a car, families with bundles of belongings walk alongside the road to flee their town

Families fleeing Saké on foot – photo provided by NPCYP.

The residents of Saké are just some of the thousands of displaced civilians seeking refuge in Goma. But they, alongside the city’s 2 million residents, are not safe. Clashes are continuing at the edge of Goma, and some fear M23 may attempt to seize the city.

Direct violence is also not the only threat to civilians: as M23 gains control of crucial areas around the city, Goma is increasingly isolated and humanitarian access is severely restricted. Displacement camps are overloaded, NGOs are struggling to provide direct assistance, and living conditions for all are deteriorating rapidly.

Speaking directly to the international community, Saidi says: “Time is of the essence. Each day without action amplifies civilian suffering and weakens regional peace prospects. We implore you to demonstrate unwavering commitment to peace, security, and justice in the Great Lakes region by taking swift and decisive measures to end this conflict.”

He adds, “In light of the UN report confirming Rwandan military involvement with the M23, we urge the international community to take immediate and decisive action.” BS-RDC calls for:

  • An immediate ceasefire to prevent further bloodshed and enable humanitarian assistance;
  • Long-term solutions to address the root causes of the conflict and prevent future escalations;
  • Firm action against armed groups operating with impunity, including those receiving external support;
  • Enhanced diplomatic efforts to facilitate inclusive dialogue and negotiations between all parties involved;
  • Urgent mobilisation of humanitarian aid to provide essential supplies and healthcare to affected populations.

In the meantime, Saidi highlights that courageous peacebuilders are working “tirelessly to promote reconciliation and peaceful coexistence, despite increasingly deplorable living conditions.”

You can show the peacebuilders of Goma your support with a message of solidarity today:

Peace Direct has provided emergency solidarity grants to both of our partners, which they can use as they see fit, including to shelter or evacuate staff and other peacebuilders.

You can support us in providing emergency funds to our partners by donating here:

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