NEWS UPDATE – The city of Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo came under the control of a military rebel group this morning following a series of clashes and a particularly hard-fought battle in the center of the city. The group of rebels called M23 are reported to be visible in every part of the city, with sporadic gunfire in outlying neighborhoods. The fate of displaced residents from the camp of Kanyaruchinya is unknown. Witnesses say residents were fleeing the camp in the direction of Mugunga (west of Goma), where gunfire also is reported. Covenant News Service will provide updates as information becomes available.
GOMA, DR CONGO (November 20, 2012) – Thirty victims of the renewed fighting in the eastern portion of the Democratic Republic of Congo were being treated at the hospital run by HEAL Africa, a ministry partner of Covenant World Relief, as of Monday.
In addition to the 30, “The hospital continues to receive patients,” said Judy Anderson of Monroe Covenant Church in Monroe, Washington, who helped found the ministry and is executive director of HEAL Africa in the United States. Click here to read a previous story on CWR and HEAL Africa.
Dr. Jo Lusi, a ministry co-founder, told Anderson by phone that one or more rockets landed a short distance from the hospital.
“The people of the internally displaced camp at Kanyaruchinya have flooded into Goma, as well as all the other population in the path of the military advance,” Anderson said Monday morning. Some 60,000 people are said to have evacuated in just one day.
“We need help to be able to help these wounded, who, for the most part have come alone to the hospital, without a family member to bring them food,” said Dr. Justin Lussy, the organization’s assistant legal representative. “It was only yesterday that HEAL Africa received permission to go to the camps in Mugunga to do a needs assessment, but as the situation quickly deteriorated in the city (due to panic and people seeking to flee), traffic became impossible. There is a great risk of a humanitarian catastrophe if nothing is done.”
Multiple news accounts reported that the M23 rebels, also known as the Congolese Revolutionary Army, entered Goma with little resistance from the government army and United Nations forces.
The rebel group M23 formed when Congolese soldiers mutinied in April. The M23 is largely made up of ethnic Tutsis, the same group that dominates the government in Rwanda. DR Congo has accused Rwanda of supporting the rebels.
On Monday, the government rejected a 24-hour ultimatum by M23 to withdraw its forces from Goma and enter into peace talks. Goma is the country’s second largest city.
DR Congo President Joseph Kabila has reportedly flown to Uganda for negotiations.
Equateur Province, where the Congo Covenant Church operates, is on the opposite side of the country, which is about a third the size of the continental United States.