Rwandans targeted in eastern DRC as mutineers advance on Goma

Young people protesting in Goma on July 9. Photo by our Observer Alain Wandimoyi. 
 
As mutineers approach Goma in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo a climate of fear has taken hold of the city. Dozens of Rwandans, who study or work in DR Congo, were urgently sent back across the border into Rwanda on Monday after being targeted by angry Congolese youth, who threatened to attack any Rwandan person they came across.
 
The situation remains tense in Goma after young people took to the streets Monday to ask the authorities to give them weapons so they could join Congolese troops in protecting their city against the M23 mutineers, a group of rebel fighters advancing in Goma’s direction. The Congolese government claims that Rwanda is backing the M23 fighters, a claim which Kigali denies. However, this hasn’t stopped Goma’s youth from accusing all Rwandans in the city of being in cahoots with the mutineers.
 
Many Rwandans cross the border every day into DR Congo to go to Goma, just on the other side, either to work or to attend university.
 
The region’s governor, Julien Paluku, quickly denounced the attacks on Rwandans in Goma as “attempts to foment ethnic disputes” and blamed them on a “youth motorcycle gang.”
 
After quickly taking control of several cities in the North Kivu region in eastern DR Congo over the past weeks, the M23 mutineers now seem on the verge of taking Goma, which is the region's capital. To avoid this, the United Nations has sent peacekeeping troops to back up the Congolese forces preparing to defend the city.
 
Young people protesting in Goma on July 9. Photo by our Observer Alain Wandimoyi.
 
For the past few months, the Congolese army has been trying to track down the M23 mutineers, a group of ethnic Tutsi rebels who had joined the army three years ago, only to defect in April. They say that the Congolese authorities have not kept the pledges made in a peace agreement signed on March 23, 2009 (thus the group’s name, M23), and claim that they were poorly paid and never given the promotions they were promised.
Contributors

"We Rwandans are being very careful to avoid certain neigbhourhods where we think we might get attacked"

Mutembo (not his real name) is a computer science student in Goma. He is Rwandan, and lives in the border town of Gisenyi on the Rwandan side of the border, just a 40-minute walk from Goma.
 
On Monday morning, we heard that a group of youth and bikers were going to take to the streets to chase Rwandans out of Goma. I heard they planned on targeting us just because we’re Rwandan, and they think Rwanda supports the M23. I was near my university when I saw them arrive. They were very angry and started throwing stones at Rwandan students, yelling that they would attack any Rwandan person who crossed their path. Quickly, however, other students came to our rescue. Then the police arrived, just in time to disperse the protesters. They drove the Rwandan students who wanted to leave to the border. We were met there by the Rwandan police, who drove us back to Gisenyi. I was terrified, but things seem to be calming down now.
 
Tuesday morning, I was able to return to my university in Goma, and everything went okay. However, we Rwandans are being very careful to avoid certain neighbourhoods of the city where we think we might be attacked.
 
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Peggy Bruguière.
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