5 DR Congo Chiefs Flee Chiefdoms, Take Refuge In Goma After Persistent M23 Rebel Attacks

Five traditional rulers in Rutshuru territory in North Kivu of the Democratic Republic of Congo have fled from their chiefdoms following repeated attacks by M23 rebels.

The fleeing chiefs are currently taking refuge in Goma which they arrived in on Wednesday, March 30.

The affected chiefs are the Mwami of Bwisha chiefdom, Jean-Baptiste Ndeze Rekaturebe, and four rulers of tribal groups.

“We have come following events that occurred in our chiefdoms, especially attacks by an armed group suspected to be M23. We were unfortunately forced to evacuate our chiefdoms yesterday under very strong pressure,” Jean-Baptiste Ndeze explained.

“We have presented ourselves to the authorities to give them a detailed report on what is happening on the ground.”

Fighting in the area broke out on Sunday, March 27, between the DR Congo national army, FARDC and M23 combatants in the Jomba tribal group leading to the massive displacement of populations from several villages.

“Some of the people have crossed into Uganda and others have gone towards Rutshuru. So it is necessary for us to agree with the authorities and later with the non-governmental organisations in charge of the movement of populations, on what to do,” the traditional ruler added. 

“That is what we are doing right now both within the chiefdoms and within the province.”

The military governor has pressured the local chiefs that “at this stage all the situation is under control”, while the Mwami of Bwisha and the tribal chiefs have expressed the hope of returning to their respective chiefdoms soon.

Since the night of Sunday, March 27, the M23 have been attacking FARDC positions in the Jomba tribal group.

On Tuesday, March 29, several villages were captured by the M23 rebels. The villages currently under the control of the M23 include Mugingo, Gasiza, Chengerero, Rugamba, Kibote, Baseke and Kabindi.

After intense fighting, the FARDC pushed back M23 combatants from the border town of Bunagana on that same Tuesday.

The DR Congo government has accused the M23 of shooting down  a UN helicopter that was circling the Chanzu hills. Eight soldiers of the UN Blue Helmets were killed in the crash.

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Chief Bisong Etahoben

Chief Bisong Etahoben is a Cameroonian investigative journalist and traditional ruler. He writes for international media and has participated in several transnational investigations. Etahoben won the first-ever Cameroon Investigative Journalist Award in 1992. He serves as a member of a number of international investigative journalism professional bodies including the Forum for African Investigative Reporters (FAIR). He is HumAngle's Francophone and Central Africa editor.

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