How abrupt gunfire almost disrupted Uhuru’s arrival at DRC camp

for Tv47 Digital November 16, 2022, 09:57 PM
Uhuru in DRC
President Uhuru Kenyatta when he arrived in Goma, DRC, on Tuesday November 15. PHOTO/COURTESY

In Summary

  • The Congolese army and the M23 rebels are involved in heavy fighting just 20 kilometres outside the strategically important city of Goma. 
  • Kanyaruchinya camp is home to an estimated 40,000 internally displaced people. 

There was panic at Kanyaruchinya camp outside Goma in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo when unknown people in Congolese army fatigues shot in the air just minutes before Kenya’s ex-president Uhuru Kenyatta's arrival on Tuesday November 15. 

Thousands of people fled helter-skelter during the incident that depicts the worsening situation in the country.

 “The army and rebels blamed each other for the incident,” reports Reuters, confirming that one of its journalists was present at the camp.

Kanyaruchinya is home to about 40,000 internally displaced people. Recently, three people died at the camp and at least 15 were injured in a stampede during distribution of food.

Urgent Intervention

Uhuru called for urgent intervention over the fighting that has flared up between the Congolese army and the M23 rebels.

The fighting is intense at Kibumba, 20 kilometres north of Goma. The area is considered one of the rebels’ last obstacles before Goma, a key commercial hub near the Rwandan border.

During the visit, ex-President Uhuru encountered people living rough on roadsides.

Described by a United Nations special envoy as increasingly acting as a conventional army, the M23 have staged a major offensive this year, seizing territory and sparking a diplomatic row between Congo and Rwanda.

Congo accuses Rwanda of backing the M23, an allegation supported by "solid evidence", according to U.N. experts. But Rwanda has firmly denied any involvement.

Uhuru was visiting Congo as regional bloc East African Community (EAC) facilitator and African Union peace envoy, aiming to cool tensions between the two countries, and end the conflict unfolding along their shared border.

Kanyaruchinya camp near Goma. On November 4, 3 people died in a stampede during the distribution of relief food. PHOTO | COURTESY

Kenyatta's work has been "severely hampered by the unfolding dreadful humanitarian crisis in and around Goma", said the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in a statement.

Earlier this month Kenya deployed an unknown number of troops to eastern Congo to join an East African regional force tasked with ending decades of bloodshed.

Pledges Not Honoured

Uhuru said rebel groups and their backers had not honoured pledges, made at peace talks earlier this year in Nairobi, to remain in their positions.

Despite billions of dollars spent on one of the U.N.'s largest peacekeeping forces, more than 100 armed groups continue to operate across large swathes of east Congo.

Jeff Nyagah, the Kenyan commander of the new EAC force, said the diplomatic process was the priority, alongside disarmament and demobilisation of armed groups.

"If those two tracks fail, we will of course use the force during a joint operation with the (Congolese army)," he told a news conference in Goma.

-Additional reporting by Reuters

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