GOMA, Congo (AP) — Renewed clashes between government soldiers and M23 rebels in eastern Congo forced more people from their homes Friday, deepening a crisis that the U.N. says already displaced 40,000 in a week’s time.
The clashes that started at around 5 a.m. sent panic-stricken residents fleeing the towns of Rugari, Kalengera and Kabaya. Some headed for Kanyaruchinya near Goma, where many displaced people have gone since fighting between the two sides resumed on Oct. 20.
“We ask the authorities to find out where we are going to live,” Faida Chantal Nsumba, one of the people who left to get away from the fighting, said Friday.
Aline Semasanga and her family fled to Rumangabo without taking anything with them.
“We waited for bullets fired by the military,” she told The Associated Press. “We were very worried and afraid. Some died and others ended up with us here because God protected us. We ask our government to bring us peace so that we can return home.”
The M23 rebels had been largely inactive for nearly a decade before they reemerged in November 2020. Hundreds were killed and nearly 200,000 people displaced before the surge in violence over the last week.
Congo’s government has accused neighboring Rwanda of supporting the M23, an allegation Rwanda’s government has repeatedly denied.
Residents who fled described chaos and violence in the towns where the most recent fighting took place.
“There were many shots in our area, and it created a total panic,” Nshiyimana Kwako said. “Now we are suffering, we are hungry. We have nothing to eat and we have left other children there.”