Rwanda Focus (Kigali)

Rwanda: Rubavu Calms Down After M23 Take Goma

Photo: Julien Harneis /Flickr
Displaced (file photo).

Calm was returning to Rubavu town on the border with the DRC last evening, hours after the M23 rebels had captured Goma town, the capital of DRC's North Kivu Province.

Charles Izidoro, who operates a garage in Rubavu, told The Rwanda Focus that there had been serious gun fire and mortar shelling since Sunday until silence returned at around mid-day on Tuesday. "The sound of gunfire was so prominent that everyone was fleeing out of the city causing transport fares to be hiked as there were few vehicles to transport everyone," Izidoro said.

Transport fares from Rubavu to Kigali which are normally Frw 3,000 were briefly hiked to Frw 10,000 francs which residents desperate to flee the situation were willing to pay nonetheless. This was confirmed by local leaders and police officials, who were hard put trying to maintain calm.

Theoneste Babu, who runs a stationary shop located close to the border with DRC, says the past two days before Goma fell provoked the worst memories, forcing him and his two staff to close and flee for their lives. "I don't know why they were firing at us, we are innocent. Two of those who were injured were my friends," said Babu, who had nonetheless returned to his shop by 4pm on Tuesday.

According to residents, two missiles were fired from the Congolese side by FARDC soldiers into Rwanda on Sunday and another one on Monday Morning, all apparently targeting a nearby Rwandan military post. "They all missed their target but injured several civilians on the Rwandan side," explained Izidoro, whose garage is located half a kilometer from the Border.

While official statements are putting the number of dead at two, residents here dispute that figure saying those dead could actually be four and about a dozen others injured. One of the dead was a second year student of ILK who was hit by fragments of the missile which fell near Goma Airport.

On Tuesday evening, many locals could be seen carrying mattresses on their heads and other amenities returning to their homes.

Hotels full

Col. Jean Marie Vianny Kazarama, a spokesperson of the M23, told The Rwanda Focus that Goma is fully under their control and constant surveillance. He added that Congolese government soldiers were pushed several kilometers out of Goma and assured that the town was free for them to return home. According to Kazarama, the governor of North Kivu, Julien Paluku, and his team had fled to Bukavu.

Over 1200 prisoners that were detained by the DRC soldiers at the Goma prison were reportedly freed.

Kazarama hinted that his forces are contemplating moving further to Sake town, about 30 kilometres towards Bukavu town.

Many of Goma's over a half a million people had fled to neighboring towns of Rwanda and by Tuesday night, most hotels in Rubavu were still overbooked. Several white expatriates working in Goma with NGOs were also stuck on the Rwandan side and seen lingering around the border trying to get news from the DRC side.

At around 5pm last evening, gun fire could still be heard in a distance but locals are confident that that the situation will calm down.

M23 has restricted entry into DRC of non-residents to avoid looting. On Wednesday morning, the borders are expected to be open to all to ensure people return to their homes and protect their property.

On Tuesday, President Paul Kagame and his Congolese counterpart Joseph Kabila traveled to Kampala to meet with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni to discuss the situation.

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