The M23 rebels have relaunched their war with the army of the Democratic Republic of Congo in the country’s volatile eastern region, leading to the displacement of thousands of people.
According to reports from the army spokesman, Guillaume Ndjike, clashes picked up again in North Kivu province on Friday, ending about a week of relative calm since the group launched their latest offensive on October 20. Affected villages include Rugari and Tongo, North-Kivu and Kibumba, which is about 20 kilometres (12 miles) north of Goma, the capital of North Kivu province in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The ongoing crisis is the backdrop of a looming humanitarian crisis that has now added over 60,000 people to DRC’s 5.6 million internally displaced people statistics.
Aljazeera reports that about 60,000 people are currently stuck behind the front line in the territory held by the M23 rebel group and need a humanitarian corridor to help them leave the area before the fighting gets closer to them.
According to Reuters, displaced people who can escape the held territories have moved to Kibati, where three camps have been set up for IDPs over the past month. Some have taken refuge in houses already abandoned by residents moving further south.
So far, at least 188,000 have been displaced in North Kivu since October 20, according to the United Nations.
The M23 have staged a considerable comeback in the eastern DRC this year since they were chased into neighbouring Rwanda and Uganda in 2013. This has caused a diplomatic rift between the DRC and Rwanda, with Kinshasa accusing Rwanda of backing the Tutsi-led group. Rwanda denies any involvement.
Human rights groups and military sources have said the M23 is using drone surveillance and the UN has said the group is using sophisticated weaponry and available evidence points to it being backed by Rwanda.
The M23 has also said the Congolese army is fighting alongside other armed groups, a charge that military authorities continue to deny.