An M23 member in Mutaho.
 
A week ago, the small farming village of Mutaho was in the news when violence broke out there between M23 rebels and the Congolese Army. Now in control of part of the village’s territory, the rebels invited journalists to come visit their new outpost, a small ghost town deserted by its inhabitants.
 
The fighting that broke out on May 20 in Mutaho, 13 km north of Goma, the capital of North-Kivu, was the first clash since rebels retreated from Goma in December 2012.
 
More than a week later, it still remains unclear which party initiated the hostilities, with each side blaming the other. All of Mutaho’s residents have left their homes, and about 5,000 villagers have fled the surrounding area. After taking shelter in Goma’s schools for several days, they are now being taken to refugee camps west of the city by humanitarian organisations.
 
Photo taken in Mutaho by our Observer.
 
This fresh fighting took place not longer after the UN Security Council decided to deploy a MONUSCO intervention brigade. MONUSCO now has an active mandate to fight against armed groups in eastern DR Congo. The brigade will have over 3,000 Tanzanian, Malawian, and South African soldiers.
 
DR Congo, which has seen two bloody wars over the last two decades, has been plagued by a new cycle of violence since a group of deserting soldiers, the M23, launched an attack against the Congolese army in North Kivu in April 2012. The M23 largely consists of former rebels who, after being integrated into the Congolese army in 2009, staged a revolt. The majority of the fighting has taken place in the North Kivu region, a strategic area given its considerable mineral wealth of gold, cassiterite, coltan, and oil.

“Several days ago, farmers still lived there”

Charly Kasereka is a radio journalist in Goma.
 
The M23 invited journalists from Goma to prove to the world that they, in fact, did have control over the small village of Mutaho, which the Congolese authorities claimed to have retaken after some fighting. They brought us there in Jeeps. The part of the village that I visited was indeeded controlled by the rebels. [Contacted by FRANCE 24, a Congolese army spokesman claimed, once again, that the army controlled the entire village’s territory.] On-site, soldiers were absolutely delighted to see us. Some were peacefully cooking, others were joking around as we walked through the village. They particularly insisted on showing us how this village has a view over the city of Goma, given its elevated position. The rebels told us that, from their vantage point, they can see what is going on in each neighbourhood of Goma, and that they can also supervise activity at the airport.
 
The view of Goma.
 
An abandoned home in Mutaho.
 
There isn’t a single civilian left in Mutaho. Absolutely everyone has fled. You can’t help but be sad when you see these men swaggering around this ghost town as if it belonged to them. Several days ago, farmers still lived here. They were forced to leave right as the bean crop was starting to grow. Now these innocent civilians are on the road, starving. In Goma, there are just so many displaced persons. They can’t find work and they have nothing to eat.
 
In the village.
 
All the photos were taken by Charly Kasereka. Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Ségolène Malterre.