Julien Paluku, the Governor of D. R. Congo’s North Kivu province, has been touring the Masisi region yesterday and today, to reassure local populations on the security of their towns. Yesterday in Kuraba and Mushaki, today in Kitshanga, he told people “I would like to fight so that everyone can return home and get back to school”. That fight was brought with a strong contingent of Congolese army, including a truck full of commandos, and heavily armed police, protecting the governor and his delegation.
But whilst Mr. Paluku addressed a large crowd in Kitshanga today, several hours west of Goma, thousands were fleeing the area around Kibumba on the road leading north from Goma towards Rutshuru. Those fleeing Kibumba told me that at around nine o’clock the previous evening, the CNDP had arrived in their town. “They started shooting around midnight” said eighteen year old Bahat Buguru, describing the moment the clashes with the Congolese army started. At seven the following morning, Mr. Buguru and his family started the long walk towards Goma, arriving at Kibati on the provincial capital’s outskirts, eight hours later. “It’s serious”, he says.
By six o’clock this evening, the local administration had registered some six hundred families at a small school in Kibati, and said that they still had many more to log. As dusk fell, people were still arriving in Kibati, with many more still on the road from Kabumba. In the dark on the road to Goma, a trickle of people were headed for the Rwandan border.
The ceasefire between the FARDC and army defectors is due to expire tomorrow, but these clashes appear to have already broken that. Defectors have formed under the banner of the M23 movement, a nod to the date of the 2009 agreement between the government and the CNDP; the infamous Bosco Ntaganda is no longer their head.
In the meantime, a new wave of displaced Congolese will add themselves to over 1.4 million in the Kivus, and some 2 million country-wide.
The Kibumba displaced in Kibati were appealing for help - they have no food, and said that they can’t get to anywhere to obtain it. As gunshots were heard in Goma tonight, the conflict that displaced them sounds far from over.