DR Congo Violence: Panic In Goma As M23 Rebels Advance

EMILE Bolingo is not sure how long he and other residents of Goma, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, can hold out.

This major city in the region, with about two million people, has been cut off from the farms that feed it for several days.

It is the latest episode in a resurgence of fighting that has seen tens of thousands added to the nearly seven million who have been forced from their homes in the country because of multiple conflicts.

Rebels from the ethnic Tutsi-led M23 movement are blocking the two main roads into Goma from the north and the west and preventing produce from getting through.

“We are scared of going hungry if the [Congolese army] do not liberate any of the main roads very soon. You can feel the panic here… people are very scared,” Mr Bolingo told the BBC.

Goma’s population has swelled in recent days with people running from the advancing fighters.

Sake, a town 25km (15 miles) north-west of Goma, came under attack on Wednesday.

“I sustained a pelvic injury caused by shrapnel,” Mundeke Kandundao told the BBC from his hospital bed in Goma where he has undergone surgery.

The 25-year-old motorbike taxi driver said a shell was launched by the rebels from a hill overlooking the town on Wednesday.

“I was standing behind a cabin and there were a lot of other people there and that’s where it exploded,” he said.

“We are scared because you know the war goes on and on, it is meaningless. We are waiting to see if it ends so that we can go back to our homes.”

Laurent Cresci, from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), told the BBC from the state-run Bethsaida Hospital in Goma that patient numbers had surged on Wednesday: “It was really a mass casualty. We were before 80 patients in our ward, and now we have 130 patients so it’s really hard to manage.”

For many people it is a tragic case of déjà vu.

“For how long shall we live like this? Every now and then we keep fleeing,” Pascal Bashali told the BBC after he had arrived in Goma. People are streaming in by foot, on motorbikes and mini buses.

Aline Ombeni said she was distraught on her arrival in the city: “We have fled empty-handed just as you are seeing us – no food, no clothes we need help with shelter and food.”

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