Funeral Held for Civilians Killed in IDP Camp in DRC

The government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) held a funeral for civilians that were killed by rockets which struck an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in the eastern DRC earlier this month.

Laid to Rest

The victims of the May 3rd bombings of four different IDP camps received a state funeral in Goma, the provincial capital of North Kivu, on May 15th. At least five rockets fell in and in proximity to four different IDP camps, killing 35 and injuring 37. Notably, one rocket which fell continues to sit idly, unexploded. It is unclear if the government has any plans for the rockets’ removal.

The camps that were struck are just a few of many that lie between the town of Sake and the city of Goma. In these camps, several hundred thousand people live temporarily, having fled conflict from other regions of the country. Many of them live in very harsh conditions. Humanitarian access to these areas remains difficult due to ongoing fighting in the area.

Within the funeral, the DRC’s Minister of Social Affairs, Humanitarian Actions and National Solidarity Modeste Mutinga Mutushayi reiterated the government’s promise to end the insecurity which plagues the eastern DRC.

“May this mourning awaken in us a dynamic of national solidarity. Be more than reassured that you are not alone in this difficult, disturbing, and trying ordeal” -Minister Mutushayi

The DRC has blamed the M23 rebel group, who operates nearby and has been engaging the government, for the attack.

In turn, the M23 has denied responsibility, and has called for an independent investigation into the matter. They blamed the “coalition armed forces” (the DRC’s military, as well as associated militias and foreign national intervention forces, namely the Southern African Development Community, or the SADC) for the attack.

Fierce Fighting

The M23 has been operating in the area since early February. The DRC and the SADC launched an offensive against the M23 in mid-January, which began with the assassination of two prominent M23 commanders. This offensive quickly backfired, however, when the M23 launched a counter offensive and pushed the DRC back in a number of different areas.

By early February the M23 had reached the vital town of Sake. Sake lies upon the last remaining road to Goma that is still held by the government. This makes Sake, a town the M23 has vowed to “liberate,” of vital importance to the government as losing the town would isolate Goma.

The M23 has stated they do not intend to capture Goma, but merely to “silence” the heavy weaponry being operated by the DRC and SADC near to Sake that the M23 claims is being used to attack civilian populations.

Fighting, although ongoing, has effectively reached a stalemate around Sake as both sides appear unable to push the other from their positions. Fighting has been ongoing in other regions of North Kivu, which has seen the M23 gain significant territory from both the DRC and hostile militias.

The fighting has displaced several hundred thousand people. At first many of these people went to Sake. When fighting reached Sake, they again picked up and moved to Goma, which is a mere 25km away from Sake. Humanitarian aid groups face significant logistical issues when reaching Goma, and the IDP camps there, meaning the camps residents receive very little aid.

Goma was already a city of two million people, and already partially dependent upon aid. The added pressure of the IDP camps has put immense strain on humanitarian operations in the area.

Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray
Sébastien Gray is a published journalist and historicist with over 5 years experience in writing. His primary focus is on East and West African affairs.

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