Dozens of crying children and women have been locked out of a UN base manned by South African peacekeepers outside Goma in eastern Congo, despite a barrage of shooting and bombing close by.
Since Monday, DR Congo Government forces have been using helicopter gunships to bomb bases of M23 rebels around Mutaho – some 17Km from Goma. Other areas have been engulfed as well, as fighting escalates. In the midst of the latest conflict, Congolese villagers have been running to all directions seeking shelter and protection.
On Monday, a reporter of German newspaper TAZ, found dozens of displaced women with children and some men outside a MONUSCO base at Munigi, about 4km from the frontline. The base houses hundreds of South African peacekeepers with tanks and all sorts of weaponry.
When the reporter knocked on the large gate, a South African soldier opened only a small peephole at the front gate. “Why are all these people outside here and they are shivering”, asked the journalist. In response, the South African soldier said: “We do not want these people here”.
The situation was confusing. Then the peephole closes. The people were left helpless before meter-high sand bags that offer protection when you stand behind them.
Moments later, a staff member of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) arrived in a white SUV. He also told people holed up at the gate that they should go.
“Where are we going?”, a man shouts back at the IOM official. “We have been wandering throughout the area.”
As of today Wednesday, it not clear what happened to the people who were chased away.
South Africa has hundreds of troops serving on the 22,000 strong force, with most of the located in eastern Congo. Meanwhile, South Africa will also provide most of the 4,000 soldiers to form part of the so call “intervention brigade” to tackle armed groups, according to UN resolutions. Others will come from Tanzania and Malawi – and the Tanzanians have already begun arriving in Goma.
The timing is perfect with the latest fighting and refusal of peacekeepers to provide protection to displaced. On Thursday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and World Bank President Jim Yong Kim are expected in Goma.