The government of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is trading accusations with M23 rebels over the bombing of a camp for the displaced locals in the Lushagala site, Mugunga district, west of Goma city in North Kivu province. The attack left nine people dead and 27 others injured.

Two mortar shells fell in the camp located 13-15 Kilometers from Goma city on Friday morning following heavy fighting between the rebels and Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) soldiers and coalition in the area. 

Civilians blocked roads after the incident in protest and accused the FARDC’s coalition, “Wazalendo (patriots) and Burundian mercenaries of being behind the act. The rebels, through their President, Bertrand Bisimwa also released a statement accusing FARDC and its coalition of turning guns into civilian areas after failing to dislodge M23 from their positions.

Bisimwa condemned the incident arguing that the objectives of FARDC and the coalition are to manipulate the international community and get sympathy as well as create terror among the civilian community.

“This morning, the coalition turned its guns towards the popular district of Mugunga causing deaths and injuries. We condemn this murderous action by the coalition of forces of the Kinshasa regime which chooses to assassinate peaceful citizens whom it claims to defend,” Bisimwa said in a statement. 

He added that the inhabitants of Goma and the displaced people had put pressure on the Kinshasa regime to withdraw its troops and let the displaced persons return to their respective environments since insecurity set in in the city following the increased presence of heavily armed soldiers and militia.

“It is against this popular pressure that Kinshasa chooses to sow terror among the innocent civilian population by indiscriminately massacring our compatriots,” Bisimwa added.

Congo River (Fleuve) Alliance (AFC), a political alliance with M23 rebels through their Communication Focal Point, Lawrence Kanyuka also released a statement accusing FARDC and coalition of dropping bombs on the camp.

But last evening, Patrick Katembwe Muyaya, DR Congo’s government spokesperson equally condemned the incident and pinned M23 rebels of being behind the act. Muyaya asserted that the time for justice will arrive.

“As has become customary, the Rwandan army and its terrorist auxiliaries of M23, in their usual barbarity have once again attacked a displaced persons camp. At the camp for displaced people in Mugunga this morning, horror in its most serious form! A bomb on civilians, dead people, children! New war crime! Unbearable images! We document!. The time for justice will arrive,” Muyaya stated.

Lieutenant Colonel Ndjike Kaiko Guillaume, the Military spokesperson for North Kivu province also released a statement alleging that the bombs were fired by the Rwandan army backing M23 rebels in the area.

Late in the night, DRC president Félix Antoine Tshisekedi Tshilombo held an urgent press briefing in Belgium where he was on an official visit and condemned the incident. Tshisekedi sent condolences to affected families and added that the country will win the war at whatever costs. He also hinted at cutting short the visit to return to the country.

“We are fighting these criminals, we will not give up and I reassure you that we will win this fight, whatever the cost,” Tshisekedi said.

The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) through its head in DRC Bintou Keita also condemned the incident. The United States  also condemned the attack on the Mugunga camp for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and called on both parties to respect human rights and adhere to applicable obligations under international humanitarian law.

“The United States strongly condemns the attack today from Rwanda Defense Forces (RDF) and M23 positions… We are gravely concerned about the recent RDF and M23 expansion in eastern DRC, which has contributed to the displacement of more than 2.5 million people, and call on both parties to respect human rights and adhere to applicable obligations under international humanitarian law,” the US Government statement reads

It also called on the states to respect each other’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and hold accountable all actors for human rights abuses in the conflict in eastern DRC, adding that all parties need to take steps to de-escalate tensions, avoid endangering civilian populations, and participate constructively in dialogue to create conditions for a negotiated solution and lasting peace.

In March 2024, 18 civilians were killed by bombs in Nyanzale and Matete villages, located between Kishishe and Kirima along the Mabenga road. M23 rebels accused FARDC and the coalition of shelling civilian positions. In January 2024, 19 civilians were killed in Mweso town, Masisi territory.  Both parties accused each other of the act.  

Heavy fighting resumed this week after several days of lull. The latest fighting has led M23 rebels to advance into the Coltan-rich town of Rubaya and neighbouring areas as well as Ngungu town in Masisi territory. 


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