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US condemns attacks on DR Congo camps for displaced people

May 4, 2024

The State Deparment suggested Rwanda or the M23 rebel group were responsible for the deadly attacks in the North Kivu province.

People gather at the side of an explosion in a refugee camp on the outskirts of Goma, Democratic Republic of the Congo
Women and children made up most of the casualtiesImage: Moses Sawasawa/AP Photo/picture alliance

The United States strongly condemned an attack on a displaced people camp in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo on Friday.

At least 12 people have been killed and dozens more seriously injured when displacement camps in Lac Vert and Mugunga on the outskirts of Goma were shelled.

The US State Department said the attack on the Mugunga camp came from "Rwanda Defense Forces (RDF) and M23 positions."

"We are gravely concerned about the recent RDF and M23 expansion in eastern DRC, which has contributed to the displacement of more than 2.5 million people," it said in a statement.

Rwanda denies attack

Rwandan government spokesperson Yolande Makolo denied the RDF was behind the attack and blamed it on militias supported by the Congolese military.

"The RDF, a professional army, would never attack an IDP. Look to the lawless FDLR and Wazalendo supported by the FARDC  [Congolese military] for this kind of atrocity," she wrote on X.

Congolese armed forces and M23 blame each other

Fighting between the Congolese army and M23 rebels has moved closer to Goma in recent months, prompting thousands to seek refuge in the city.

Kinshasa, United Nations officials and Western powers have long accused neighboring Rwanda of supporting the M23 rebels, something Kigali denies.

A spokesman for the Congolese armed forces said M23 rebels fired on the refugee camps after the military destroyed a rebel weapon and ammunition depot on Friday morning. The M23 rebel group denied any role in the attacks and blamed Congolese forces.

The United Nations said the attacks were a "flagrant violation of human rights and international humanitarian law and may constitute a war crime."

Tshisekedi returns home early from Europe

Congo's President Felix Tshisekedi cut short a trip to Europe following Friday's attacks.

Earlier in the week, during a stop in Germany to meet Chancellor Olaf Scholz, he told DW his country was "being attacked by Rwanda, which is disguising this aggression by means of M23."

'The phones you have contain the blood of the Congolese'

Even before Friday's attacks, Tshisekedi blamed Rwanda's President Paul Kagame for trying to sabotage Angolan President Joao Lourenco, mediating between the DR Congo and Rwanda on behalf of the African Union (AU).

"There is now what we believe to be a last-ditch attempt, and I want to give peace a chance as much as possible...we're not always going to be patient like this, wishing for peace," Tshisekedi told DW.

During a joint press conference with Tshisekedi in Paris, French President Emmanuel Macron called on Rwanda to halt its support for the M23 rebel group.

lo/msh (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)