Congolese flee towards Goma as rebels advance
Safari Hangi walked for hours with a baby strapped to his back and six young children in tow trying to find safety as apparent gains by rebel forces in eastern Congo sparked a fresh exodus of people towards the provincial capital Goma.
“If it weren’t for this war, we would be in our village without any problems, farming and getting on with daily chores,” said Hangi, 42, as the family paused to rest on the stony road.
“The M23 did not take Mushaki. There was a strategic withdrawal,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. “There are many displaced people in Sake and the fighting was coming closer.”
Since the new offensive, the group has seized swathes of North Kivu province and displaced hundreds of thousands of people.
The government accuses it of mass atrocities and flouting a ceasefire deal.
M23 spokesman Lawrence Kanyaka said the only threat to civilians was from Congolese forces’ use of heavy weapons and their alliance with other armed groups.
Congo denies cooperating with other militant groups active in the area.
The situation appeared calm, but the streets were more empty than usual, the normally bustling marketplace was quiet, and its stalls were bare.
The city has seen prices for everyday goods soar after rebels seized key agricultural areas and severed supply routes.