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Bullet Wounds are Common in DRC,Goma ever since the resurgence of the Tutsi-led M23 militia

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Ayize claire

May 19, 2024

Bullet Wounds Common as Crime Surges in Rebel-Besieged Goma, DRC

The sentiment is widespread. A senior commander in the APCLS – a well-organised militia with its roots in North Kivu’s Hunde community – said the Wazalendo were the city’s first line of defence, and accused the army of routinely fleeing from battle.
Demonstrators denounce international silence on the crisis in DRC, and to show their support for the Congolese army in February. Photograph: Guerchom Ndebo/AFP/Getty

In Goma, the capital of North Kivu province in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), crime and violence have surged as M23 rebels besiege the city. On April 16, three armed men robbed a city center mobile phone shop, stealing goods worth about £700 and fleeing on a motorbike. This incident occurred near the city hall, highlighting the growing lawlessness since the rebels blocked main roads into Goma in February.

The city's residents, like the unnamed shop manager, have adapted to this dangerous new normal, with many accepting death and robberies as part of daily life. In April alone, at least 29 people were killed and 22 wounded in Goma, marking a record high in violence.

The resurgence of the Tutsi-led M23 militia, backed by Rwanda according to UN and US reports, has trapped thousands of Congolese soldiers and pro-government fighters, known as Wazalendo, around Goma. The rebels renewed their insurgency in late 2021, capturing significant territory in North Kivu. The militia cut off Goma’s last overland supply route from Rwanda in February.

Amid the chaos, armed men, including unpaid militias and Congolese soldiers, have resorted to crime, including robberies, extortion, and rape, both inside the city and in displacement camps housing 700,000 people. The Wazalendo, formed after President Félix Tshisekedi's call for vigilante groups, are among those accused of abuses.

Despite efforts to curb the crime wave, such as a ban on Wazalendo carrying weapons in the city, violence remains rampant, especially in displacement camps where state control is weak. Médecins Sans Frontières reported 700 cases of rape per week in March, likely underestimating the true extent of the crisis.

Gaspar Ndagijamana, a displaced taxi driver in the Kanyaruchinya camp, was shot for refusing to surrender his phone and later, his pregnant wife was also shot for refusing a demand for money. Both survived, though Laetitia has had pregnancy complications.

As Goma grapples with this crisis, the international community continues to scrutinize Rwanda's alleged role in the conflict, while the city's residents endure relentless violence and insecurity.

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