I saw hundreds of people, many parents with their children, arriving in the Monusco camp, which is 8 kilometres north of Goma. Most were coming from Rutshuru. Some were arriving atop overcrowded trucks. They feared new violence between the M23 rival factions.
I get the feeling that Monusco wants to show that it will oppose the return of M23 rebels in this area. They are strengthening their presence in the hills around the city [ when M23 rebels briefly took over Goma in November 2012, Monusco was severely criticized for its inability to have stopped the advance of the rebel group]. The rebels and the peacekeepers are eyeing each other warily, but there hasn’t been any fighting. An example of the UN’s strengthened resolve is that, when the rebels left the town of Kanyarushinya on Thursday, Monusco peacekeepers took over the area to prevent them from returning.
Children help the peacekeepers put rocks on the road to create a checkpoint.
The people I talked to are very surprised by the behavior of the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC). For example, they don’t understand why the troops left Rutshuru a mere 24 hours after having taken back control
. When they went to bed that evening, the residents of Rutshuru were under the protection of the FARDC, and when they got up the next day, the M23 rebels were back in control!
Nonetheless, there are some M23 rebels giving themselves up to Monusco. I took a picture of one of them when he went to give his weapon to the UN forces from India and South Africa that are based in Goma.
In Goma, most people don’t believe the M23 rebels will come back: the movement appears disorganized and weakened by its internal conflicts. But the situation is very worrisome from a humanitarian point of view. [Editor’s Note: Our Observer told us on Thursday that since he visited the refugees at the Monusco camp, many of them have moved to the nearby town of Kanyarutshunya].