Tension As Civilians Flee Possible Face-off Between M23 & DRC Forces In Goma

Tension is building near the eastern DRC city of Goma with reports indicating that the M23 rebels have advanced to within two kilometres outside the town.

M23 rebels walk through the jungle in North Kivu province in eastern Congo.
M23 rebels walk through the jungle in North Kivu province in eastern Congo.

Sources in the area indicate that the area of Kibati has been occupied by the M23 rebels as they advance towards the Goma.

The presence of the rebels is said to have forced many civilians to flee towards the city centre as the Government forces on the other side also step up their presence.

Sources from the Congolese government indicate that the rebels have been regrouping in the areas of Buvira, Buyengwe and Munigi.

Locals are said to have parked their easy to carry belongings and also moved with their animals such as goats and cows.

Most of those fleeing are said to be women and children, with some of the fleeing families occupying foster homes in and around Goma.

Congolese army (FARDC) spokesperson for North Kivu, Olivier Hamuli, says the government forces are getting ready for a possible attack and that they would not hesitate to respond heavily to any attack from the rebels.

However, the M23 rebels say that it is the government army that has teamed up with FDLR rebels from Rwanda to attack their bases. The rebels say that government and the Tanzanian forces have been planning an attack on their stronghold of Mabenga.

M23 rebel spokesperson Col. Vianny Kazarama says the government soldiers are the ones provoking the rebels and that they cannot just sit and be killed or driven out of their ancestral land.

Last month, the rebels intensified military drills and recruitment of fighters which was seen as a move to prepare for an attack on the government forces.

The M23, who have been fighting the Kinshasa government since April 2012, say they will not waste any time to recapture the city of Goma if the government continues to attack their territory.  The rebels overrun and captured the same city in November last year before withdrawing under pressure from Uganda and Rwanda, the two countries accused of directly or indirectly bankrolling M23.

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