In Goma, Congo, a rocket landed dangerously close to a university, signalling the escalating threat posed by M23 rebels amidst a mass exodus of civilians, raising concerns about the safety of the city’s two million residents.
Amidst the chaos, 25-year-old student Sophonie Bayonga expressed concern, stating, “This shows that M23 is targeting Goma now. The government has to do something to stop M23’s progress.”
The M23 rebel group’s resurgence has reignited a conflict that prompted military intervention and mediation efforts by East African regional leaders in 2022, leading to a ceasefire that has since been repeatedly violated.
Jean-Pierre Lacroix, U.N. under-secretary-general for peace operations, described the situation as “very worrying,” emphasising the risk of regional instability and urging the M23 to halt its offensive immediately.
As the violence escalates, civilians endure the brunt of the conflict, with bombings and reprisal attacks claiming lives and displacing thousands. The U.N.’s humanitarian office, OCHA, reported approximately 42,000 people displaced since Friday.
The Congolese army reported a second M23 bomb striking a village near Goma, while clashes intensified near the town of Sake. Residents and aid workers bear witness to the relentless barrage of bombing and gunfire, with MSF evacuating staff from Mweso after their hospital came under fire.
Elisabeth Rebecca, a displaced resident, recounted the horrors of the conflict, stating, “There was a lot of gunfire back home. The M23 burned houses down and took everything…Some of us lost our children; there were many dead and many wounded.”
As Goma faces unprecedented peril, diplomatic efforts intensify to contain the crisis and protect civilians. The government vows to prevent Goma from falling into M23 hands, while the international community braces for further escalation in this volatile region.