DRC: after the bombing of a displaced persons camp in Goma, Kinshasa and Washington accuse Rwanda

Never has a bombing provoked so many reactions since the resurgence of the war in North Kivu, a province in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), at the end of 2021

DRC: after the bombing of a displaced persons camp in Goma, Kinshasa and Washington accuse Rwanda

Never has a bombing provoked so many reactions since the resurgence of the war in North Kivu, a province in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), at the end of 2021. The United Nations peace mission (Monusco ), the African Union (AU), the European Union (EU) as well as many Western chancelleries have “strongly condemned” the strikes of Friday May 3 on a displaced persons camp in Goma.

At least five rockets exploded in the southwest of the regional capital, the epicenter of the conflict between the March 23 Movement (M23), an armed group supported by the Rwandan army, and Congolese pro-government forces, made up of soldiers and of militiamen. Four days after the tragedy, the provincial health division reported 18 deaths, mostly women and children. This toll from May 7 could rise further since 32 people were injured, 27 of them seriously.

“This event is a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law,” France responded. “A new escalation,” adds Belgium; “contrary to the spirit of the ceasefire called by several ministers during a meeting in Angola in March,” insists the AU. Among the numerous press releases published, only those from the DRC and the United States distinctly accuse Rwanda. “How do you arrive at this absurd conclusion? The Rwandan Defense Forces [RDF], a professional army, would never attack a displaced persons camp,” retorts Rwandan government spokesperson Yolande Makolo on the social network US State Department.

Since the end of 2023, Washington has been trying to play mediator. A fifteen-day truce, negotiated by the Americans, was concluded during the Congolese elections in December. But the Rwandan army units present alongside the M23 rebels never withdrew, according to recent photographs consulted by Le Monde, contrary to what the Congolese authorities demanded. Worse still, according to a security source close to Kinshasa, “it was during this ceasefire that Rwandan surface-to-air missiles crossed the border.” The presence of these devices capable of destroying planes, helicopters or drones has been documented by the UN.

“Crossfire”

Even if the Kigali authorities have never officially recognized their presence in the DRC, they no longer deny their support for the M23. The head of state, Paul Kagame, has often recalled that he will take all necessary measures to defend his territory; and his administration has repeatedly denounced the errors of power in Kinshasa, particularly after the bombings of May 3.

“Shots were fired at point blank range by the FARDC [the Congolese army] and the Burundian armed forces deployed in the DRC at demonstrators in a camp for displaced people,” accuses the Rwandan government in a press release. On the site called “8th Cepac”, displaced people, shocked and with stones in their hands, spontaneously headed towards the governorate of Goma. At least one woman was killed “by a stray bullet during the dispersal of protesters by the police,” indicates the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

Several sources also mention the responsibility of the military command. After the large offensive by the M23 and the Rwandan army in February and the withdrawal of pro-government forces towards Goma, at least two Congolese artillery positions were installed at the displaced persons camps. A proximity with serious consequences for the population, who finds themselves “trapped between the crossfire” of the M23 and the Congolese army, denounces the NGO Médecins sans frontières (MSF) on X.

On the morning of May 3, the detonations of Congolese cannons pointed towards the hills controlled by the M23 were also heard at least thirty minutes before the bombings which affected civilians, confirm several sources, suggesting that these salvos were could have been sent in retaliation against those of the FARDC.

Rwanda, the United States and MONUSCO are calling for an investigation. For its part, the DRC promises that the perpetrators will answer before international justice. But for the moment, no independent institution has publicly taken up the matter.