In recent weeks heavy fighting has broken out between the DR Congolese Army and M23 rebel forces in the Eastern DR Congo, where our ministry partners, HEAL Africa and Ephphatha, live and serve.
The rebels have taken control of positions as close as 20 km from Goma and briefly took over the main military base in the province.
The fighting has forced tens of thousands of people to flee their homes, with many of those heading for Goma.
Our ministry partners are telling us that this influx of displaced people is likely to put enormous strain on Goma’s resources, which have already been impacted by the conflict surrounding the city.
“These villages where the fighting is taking place, they supply the food for the city of Goma,” explains Charmant from Ephphatha. “The rebel forces were also controlling the road that connects Goma to these rural villages. It has been taken back and reopened now, but people are still too afraid to use it.”
In addition to food shortages, finding shelter for tens of thousands of displaced people will be an overwhelming challenge. “Our nutrition teacher, Amani, is hosting 49 people in her home”, reports Charmant, “the centre’s director has welcomed three families and one of our doctors is doing so as well.”
The conflict between these forces has origins dating back to the Rwandan genocide of 1994, but the current level of fighting represents a high point of M23’s most sustained offensive since their 2012-2013 insurrection, in which they temporarily took control of Goma.
The situation is being made even more complex by the involvement of national interests, with many claiming that Rwanda is supporting M23 forces and with Uganda providing the DR Congo with provisional peace keeping support in response. (You can find more details on the background of these conflicts here.)
Update 28 June
Heavy fighting continues in the regions surrounding Goma.
People are still being forced to flee their homes, with the Red Cross reporting that in the town of Rutshuru (just to the north of Goma) more than 800 children have been separated from their families by the conflict.
The supply and prices of food and medicines continues to be impacted by border closures and by rebels taking over the major transport roads.
“All of our activities at the Ephphatha Centre continue,” reports Ephphatha’s Director, Charmant Mututa, “we must keep serving the deaf community, especially at this time. But it is hard for us not to become anxious and be traumatised by the conflict and insecurity right now.”
The threat of international conflict also continues to escalate, with the Community of East African States recently calling on Rwanda to withdraw their forces from Congolese soil, and with Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi all sending troops to help combat the rebel forces and secure the region.
We will keep you updated on the situation in weeks to come but please continue to join us in praying for our ministry partners and the innocent people caught up in this conflict.
“Please pray for peace,” asks Pytchen from HEAL Africa, “so those that have been displaced can return home. Pray for them and the people of Goma as there is limited food and shelter. And pray also that the tension between the governments would be relieved.
- Pray for a de-escalation of violence.
- Pray for the tens of thousands of displaced people – that they would have food and shelter and God’s comfort in all the upheaval.
- Pray for the peace between the countries in the region. Pray for the peace talks happening in Kenya – pray for the leaders involved that they would have hearts that want peace.
- Pray for our ministry partners – Ephphatha and HEAL Africa – that God would keep them safe and give them wisdom about how to show God’s love at this time.