Emile Bolingo doesn’t know how much longer he and others in Goma, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, can keep going.
This big city with around two million people has been unable to get food from the nearby farms for a few days.
This is the newest fight in a series of fights that has caused many people to leave their homes in the country. Almost seven million people have been forced to leave their homes because of several conflicts.
The M23 rebels, who are Tutsi, are stopping food and other goods from reaching Goma by blocking the main roads from the north and west.
“We are worried about not having enough food if the Congolese army doesn’t open the main roads soon. ” Mr Bolingo said that people are very scared and can feel the panic here.
Goma’s population has increased a lot because people are running away from the fighters who are moving closer.
Sake, a town 25km (15 miles) northwest of Goma, was attacked on Wednesday.
“I got hurt in my pelvis from pieces of a bomb,” Mundeke Kandundao said to the BBC from his hospital bed in Goma where he had an operation.
The 25-year-old driver said the rebels shot a shell from a hill above the town on Wednesday.
“I was behind a building with many other people when it blew up,” he said.
“We are afraid because the war keeps going on and doesn’t seem to have a point. ” We are waiting to see if it’s over so we can go home.
Laurent Cresci from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said to the BBC from the state-run Bethsaida Hospital in Goma that there were a lot of patients coming in on Wednesday. He said, “There were a lot of people injured. ” Before, there were 80 patients in our ward, but now there are 130 patients and it’s very difficult to take care of them all.
Many people feel like they have seen this tragedy before and it makes them very sad.
“How much longer do we have to live like this. We keep running away all the time,” Pascal Bashali said to the BBC when he got to Goma. People are walking, riding on motorcycles, and traveling in small buses to come to the place.
Aline Ombeni was very upset when she arrived in the city. She said that they had run away with nothing and needed help with food, clothes, and a place to stay.
As the fighting gets closer, it reminds me of 2012 when the rebels took over the city by the lake for 10 days but left after other countries made them.
The M23 started in 2012 to protect the Tutsi people in eastern DR Congo from being mistreated. The United Nations experts have said that the group has support from Rwanda, which is also ruled by Tutsis. Rwanda has always said this is not true.
“We all know that the war is happening because of money. ” Rwanda is still. For the last 25 years, the Congo has been robbed of its minerals. The Congo wants the UK to help stop Rwanda from taking its minerals.
People are worried that the M23, a very organized and strong rebel group, might take control of Goma.
Recently, President FÃ©lix Tshisekedi, who was elected again, said last year that the people of Congo should trust him and that the city of Goma will always be safe. He said the same thing again, in the city, while campaigning for the election in December.
Goma is an important place for business because it is close to big mining towns that provide valuable metals like gold, tin, and coltan. The town has good roads and airports, and a big UN peacekeeping base. Because of this, many companies, international groups, and diplomatic offices have moved here.
Therefore, Goma is an important place to capture, but the M23 says they don’t want to take it and they are only defending, not attacking.
Onesphore Sematumba, who studies DR Congo at the International Crisis Group, said that the M23 could capture Goma using their strong military, but it would cause them a lot of trouble.
The rebels might be showing what they can do and remembering what happened when they took over Goma in 2012 and got in trouble with other countries.
After leaving, it lost many battles to the Congolese army with help from other countries, and had to leave the country. M23 fighters decided to join the army again with the promise that Tutsis would be kept safe.
However, in 2021, the group started fighting again because they felt that the promises had not been kept.
It came out of the forests on the edge of DR Congo, Rwanda, and Uganda and moved closer to Goma, taking over a lot of land.
Truces were agreed, but they didn’t last because the government and the M23 rebel group are blaming each other.
The M23 group has said many times that they want to talk about peace with Kinshasa.
“We requested to talk and find a peaceful solution to this problem,” said Lawrence Kanyuka, who speaks for M23, in an interview with the BBC. “Several wars do not solve the main reasons for fighting. ” The Congo government doesn’t want peace, they want to keep fighting and kill more people.
President Tshisekedi said that discussions are not an option.
“We want to make it clear that the government will never talk or make a deal with M23. ” M23 is not real. Rwanda is controlling someone and telling them what to say,” a government official told the reporters.
The East African force left DR Congo last year because the government asked them to. They were there to help keep people safe and secure areas that armed groups had left.
In December, it left and then the ceasefire ended, and there was more fighting from the M23.
President Tshisekedi wants the southern African force that just arrived to do better at fighting rebel groups because they have permission to attack them.
He has also told the big UN group in the country, called Monusco, to go away. It was not liked by many people because it did not stop the fighting during its 25 years in use.
However, some people are worried that the fighting could become more severe because the president of Congo said he might start a war with Rwanda if the rebels attack again.
In response to the comments, Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame said in January that when defending his country, “we will fight with everything we have. ”
At the same time, Natàlia Torrent from the medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has said that the increase in fighting in various areas since mid-January is causing a lot of harm to a population that is already in a tough situation.
“We are in a place where many diseases have already spread before. ” We’ve been working on cholera or measles last year and we are worried. “There will be more outbreaks of diseases coming,” she told the reporters.
Thinking about the fighting, Goma resident Mr. Bolingo said: “We are the ones who feel the pain. ”
Mr Bashali ran away from Sake with his wife and nine kids. He said, “People, including men, women, and children are dying in the fighting. It’s sad We hope our country becomes peaceful. “