DRC: At least 13 civilians killed after new clashes between army and M23 rebels


According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), clashes between the Congolese army and fighters from the rebel group, Mouvement du 23 mars (M23) continued in Rutshuru territory in North Kivu, affecting thousands of people, the majority of whom are women and children. Since March, more than 158,000 people have had to flee the conflict zones.

This Thursday, OCHA, citing local authorities, announced the death of 13 residents of eastern DRC after new clashes between the two groups. Among these 13 civilians killed between June 19 and 21 in several localities of the territory of Rutshuru (province of North Kivu) are four children, specifies the humanitarian branch.

Humanitarian operations hampered by the persistence of violence

With civilians caught in a vice between the M23 rebels and the Congolese armed forces, “several villages in the territory of Rutshuru have been almost emptied of their inhabitants, some of whom have fled to Uganda”, added the UN. Rutshuru center and Kiwanja continue to welcome new people from the combat zones.

At least 17,000 displaced people have arrived since March in Rutshuru-centre and in the nearby town of Kiwanja, where they are housed in schools, stadiums and host families.

“Among the new arrivals, around 3,000 displaced people, including more than 1,000 people who arrived since June 12, live in close quarters at the Rugabo stadium in Rutshuru center,” OCHA said.

The humanitarian branch of the UN deplores that humanitarian operations are “hindered by the persistence of violence”. “Humanitarian interventions continue although financial resources and humanitarian access are limited,” OCHA insisted. Access to vulnerable populations in the Rwanguba Health Zone remains particularly difficult due to the ongoing fighting which has led to the closure of the road linking Bunagana to Burayi since 12 June.

At least 158,000 displaced since March

In the neighboring territory of Nyiragongo, where heavy fighting opposed the army to the M23 at the end of May, “the security situation remains volatile despite a relative lull” which has been observed in all the Kibumba and Buhumba groupements since May 26, OCHA added in its latest situation report.

Since March, OCHA has counted at least 158,000 people displaced in Rutshuru and Nyiragongo territories, following clashes between the Congolese army and M23 rebel fighters.

The people who have returned to their villages express needs for food and means of subsistence, essential household items, drinking water, education. More than 600 families whose homes are believed to have been destroyed in the clashes are also in urgent need of shelter.

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