North Kivu, DRC | THE INDEPENDENT | The United Nations (UN) Humanitarian Aid Department has condemned last week’s bombings in Mweso town, North Kivu province that left 19 civilians dead.
The bombings happened during heavy fighting between the March 23 Movement (M23) rebels and the Armed Forces of Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC), a militia coalition under their umbrella Wazalendo (Patriots), and troops under the Southern African Development Community (SADC) troops. 27 other civilians were injured and an unspecified number of houses were destroyed.
In a statement released on Tuesday, signed by Bruno Lemarquis, Deputy special representative of the UN Secretary General in the DR Congo and Coordinator of humanitarian action condemned the bombings saying that it created serious violations of international humanitarian laws.
Lemarquis says that what bothered the UN most was that the majority of the dead were women and children. He says that International Laws mandate all parties to the conflict to carry a duty of protecting civilian populations.
According to Lemarquis, civilian populations cannot be the target of fighting and have the right to receive appropriate assistance. “The humanitarian community is profoundly concerned by serious violations of international humanitarian law committed recently, with clashes claiming the lives of many civilians, including women and children, particularly in Mweso where a bombardment in a residential neighborhood on 25 January killed 19 people and injured over 20. It is crucial to ensure the safety of humanitarian workers and civilians to allow assistance to reach those in need and prevent deterioration of the humanitarian situation”, says Lemarquis in a statement.
He also said that so far, heavy fighting in Mweso has left about 8,000 internally displaced people finding shelter near Mweso hospital, and others about 251,000 are stuck at Mweso health zone which raises fears of the risk of a new tragedy if the fighting intensifies near the vital installations that must be protected.
UN’s condemnations have not stopped heavy fighting from continuing. Fighting raged in Mweso on Tuesday at around 11:00 am in Mushaki, Mweso, Karuba, and their surrounding areas. FARDC and coalition were using heavy, light weapons and combat drones to shell M23 rebels’ positions.
The government army was yet to release a statement about the latest fighting. M23 rebels’ political spokesperson Lawrence Kanyuka released a statement accusing FARDC and the coalition of launching assaults first and claiming that M23 fighters are defending themselves as well as defending the population. “The M23 informs the public of the following: Masisi: Coalition forces of the illegitimate regime in Kinshasa have launched widespread attacks against civilians in densely populated areas of Mshaki, Mweso, Karuba, and their surrounding areas, using combat aircraft, heavy artillery, and drones. Rutshuru: Since this morning, MONUSCO has been using its drones. The M23 reminds the world of the unprecedented humanitarian crisis created by Tshisekedi Tshilombo and his coalition forces,” says Kanyuka in a statement.
On Monday, two bombs were dropped in the town of Sake injuring one person. It is not yet known who fired the bomb.
In March 2022, M23 led by Bertrand Bisimwa and General Sultan Makenga launched a war against the government. The DR Congo government accuses Rwanda of backing M23, but Rwanda and M23 strongly deny it. The rebels claim to fight against bad leadership in DR Congo based on corruption, xenophobia, and discrimination.