Fighting raged Friday morning between the army and M23 rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, according to local sources, less than 30 km from the major city of Goma, where an emergency European aid plane is expected to arrive later today.
The aircraft is the first to be chartered as part of a civilian humanitarian airlift announced Saturday by the European Union to help people affected by the fighting.
Goma is the capital of North Kivu, a province in which the M23, supported by Rwanda according to Kinshasa and UN experts, has conquered vast swathes of territory since last year. Most of the city’s land supply routes are cut off and Goma is caught between Rwanda to the east, Lake Kivu to the south and the rebels to the north and west.
The city is home to more than a million people, plus thousands of war-displaced people driven from their villages by the fighting. The aid plane is carrying emergency shelters, hygiene kits and medicines.
On the ground, after a day of calm on Thursday, clashes resumed early Friday west of Goma, in the village of Murambi, less than 30 km from the city. Between this village and Goma lies the town of Saké, considered the last lock on the road to the provincial capital.
“The population is once again in a state of psychosis,” Léopold Busanga, president of the Saké civil society, told AFP by telephone.
Another fighting was reported further north, about 70 km from Goma, according to a local official.
After several unsuccessful announcements of a halt to hostilities in recent months, a cease-fire was supposed to come into effect on Tuesday.
The day before, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged the rebels to comply with the truce, while on Saturday, French President Emmanuel Macron, on a visit to Kinshasa, threatened sanctions against parties to the conflict who ignore the new deadline.
But the guns did not fall silent and the M23 continued to expand its territory.
A UN Security Council delegation arrived in Kinshasa Thursday evening for a three-day visit to the DRC. It is scheduled to stay in Goma on Saturday and Sunday.
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