In a harrowing escalation of violence in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, a rocket landed dangerously close to a university in Goma on Wednesday. The incident occurred as thousands of civilians fled a renewed offensive by M23 rebels, posing a serious threat to the city with a population of around two million.
Fortunately, there were no casualties from the rocket strike, but the proximity to Goma underscores the strategic importance of the city in the conflict-ridden eastern region.
M23 rebels, who initiated a major offensive in 2022, are now making fresh advances despite previous military interventions and mediation efforts by East African regional leaders.
Although a ceasefire was brokered last year, it has been repeatedly violated, leading to intensified clashes between rebels, army forces, and self-defense groups supporting them. The situation has forced entire communities to seek refuge in perceived safer areas on the outskirts of Goma.
UN Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, expressed deep concern about the situation, describing it as “very worrying” after an official visit to the province. He emphasized the risk of a regional explosion and urged the M23 to immediately halt its offensive.
Lacroix called for diplomatic efforts to resume with all actors in the region and recommended reinforcing Congolese forces in provinces due to be vacated by the UN peacekeeping force later this year.
Congo’s government has vowed not to let Goma fall into M23 hands, as it did briefly in 2012. However, the rebel group claims its actions are defensive maneuvers and denies the goal of capturing Goma.
Civilians are enduring the brunt of the violence, with numerous casualties reported from bombings and reprisal attacks. Recent clashes have displaced around 42,000 people since Friday, according to the UN’s humanitarian office Ocha.
Amid the escalating conflict, MSF (Doctors Without Borders) reported the evacuation of some staff after a hospital in Mweso, north of Goma, was hit by bullets. The town, already subject to fighting over the past weeks, witnessed renewed violence, causing injuries to around 30 people.
As the sound of bombings and gunfire continues to echo in Sake and Goma, residents and reporters recount the distressing scenes.
Elisabeth Rebecca, a displaced woman from a nearby village, described the chaos, including burned houses, looting, and loss of lives.
The grim reality unfolds as thousands seek shelter, highlighting the urgent need for diplomatic intervention to prevent further devastation in the region.