Thousands flee Goma to Rwanda

WESTERN PROVINCE Hundreds of Congolese and international aid workers continued fleeing to Rwanda, Thursday from the besieged town of Goma via the border town of Gisenyi.
Congolese refugees at the border crossing.
Congolese refugees at the border crossing.

WESTERN PROVINCE

Hundreds of Congolese and international aid workers continued fleeing to Rwanda, Thursday from the besieged town of Goma via the border town of Gisenyi.

The refugees were fleeing violence that ensued following a rebel advance on the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo town of Goma.

“What is going on back there is disgusting,” an unhappy displaced Goma resident told The New Times in Gisenyi Thursday afternoon.

She said uncontrolled government soldiers looted, vandalized and even raped women in Goma, the provincial capital of DRC’s volatile north eastern Kivu province.

“I am not sure whether this peace will last for long but if it appears normal enough I will go back home immediately.”

A Rubavu district immigration officer who preferred anonymity told The New Times that thousands crossed the border to Gisenyi on October 29.

“However they don’t consider themselves as refugees. These are people who crossed the border to temporarily live in Gisenyi hotels and lodges until the situation returns to normal,” he said.

Some 3,659 and 4,174 Congolese and international aid agencies’ staff, among others, crossed into Rwanda through Gisenyi on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively.

Even though the border area seemed calm after the present lull in the fighting, those who spoke to The New Times revealed that they were afraid and still unsure whether the calm would last long.

Rebels of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP are camped outside Goma, but declared a ceasefire Wednesday night.

Fredrick Mbyenyi, an employee of a South African Protestant Church charity organisation in Goma told The New Times that he fled Goma for his security.

“After witnessing DR Congo troops evacuating the town, we felt we had no more security. We decided to come and stay in Gisenyi for some days as we wait to see what comes next. I expected to have a hotel room but I’m stranded because all lodges and hotels are full,” said Fredrick who was seated together with other stranded people in Gisenyi’s STIP Hotel compound.

The official added that most of the people who fled to Gisenyi were employed and financially capable of meeting their expenses if the situation in Goma didn’t take too long to normalise.

In a related incident, Forces Democratiques pour la Liberation du Rwanda (FDLR), a rebel group comprised of key authors of the 1994 Tutsi Genocide, are suspected to be responsible for the recent October 28 bombing on the Rwandan territory of Bugeshi sector.

The FDLR were fighting alongside the government army.
While talking to The New Times shortly after his visit to the bombed area, Rubavu District Mayor Céléstin Twagirayezu said that the situation had normalised though most people who were evacuated are still afraid of returning to their homes.

“I have witnessed the bombed area. Approximately 10 artilleries shells were fired on Rwandan territory. Fortunately, no one died. It’s only one child whose ear was cut by a fragment from the bombs,” Twagirayezu explained, adding; “ The child is hospitalised and in good condition.”

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