Calls to protect DR Congo civilians as fighting flaresFri, 24 May 2024 12:37:54 GMT

Doctors without Borders (MSF) has called for the protection of hundreds of thousands of civilians “caught in the crossfire” between the M23 rebel group and government forces in east DR Congo.The mainly Tutsi-led M23 (March 23 Movement)resumed its armed campaign at the end of 2021 and has seized swathes of territory in the North Kivu province, displacing large numbers of people.”The camps for displaced persons must be respected by all parties to the conflict and fighting in the vicinity must stop,” Marie Brun,  an emergency coordinator for the international medical charity said in the provincial capital Goma.Violence in the area has raged as the Congolese army, backed by a handful of armed militia known as the Wazalendo — or patriots in Swahili — tries to push back the Rwanda-backed rebels. Heavy artillery fire on camps around Goma, has killed 23 people and injured 52 others since February, Brun said.On the morning of May 3 alone at least 18 people, most of whom were women and children, were killed and 32 more wounded by shelling across several sites for internally displaced persons, she added, citing the United Nations.”The concentration of armed men in and around the densely populated camps and the growing proximity of military positions to the displaced people has led to a general increase in the level of violence,” she said in a statement.”Civilians are caught in the crossfire between the different armed groups… they are in complete insecurity and have no way out.”Over recent weeks, Goma has been virtually surrounded by several front lines, with up to one million displaced people crammed alongside the city’s two million residents, the MSF worker said.