DRC suspends traffic again on roads connecting to Goma over new rebel threat.

Updated by Faith Barbara Namagembe at 2214 EAT on Friday 3rd March 2023.

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) government has suspended traffic on four major roads connecting to Goma city in North Kivu province, just a day after re-opening.

The government had allowed the resumption of traffic along Goma-Rutshuru-Kanyabayonga, Goma-Sake-Kitshanga-Kanyabayonga, Goma-Sake-Kitshanga-Pinga, and Goma-Sake-Mushaki-Masisi–Walikale on Wednesday despite the presence of M23 rebels in the area.

Traffic along the road connecting DRC to the Uganda border at Bunagana had remained closed. The leaders said that the decision to reopen the roads was taken following a public outcry, especially from the business sector which was bruised by the effects of the fighting between the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) and M23 rebels.

The resumption of traffic left locals in Goma in celebrations through Thursday, but as the cover of darkness surfaced, the government withdrew its directives after reports emerged that M23 rebels had shot and killed a truck driver and his turnboy along the Rutshuru-Goma road.  

The authorities also accuse the rebels of looting all the goods transported in the truck, according to a statement issued by Lt Col Kaiko Ddjike Guillaume, spokesperson of FARDC for North Kivu province. The statement indicates that the decision to suspend traffic is aimed at protecting the population from the terrorist behaviour of the M23.

After the government statement, M23 president Bertrand Bisimwa also released a short statement on the group’s social media handles describing it as a cynical and anti-social measure that obstructs the free movement of people and goods between Goma and the rest of North Kivu.  

“Let us denounce a cynical and antisocial measure that obstructs the free movement of people and goods between Goma and the rest of North Kivu. This hostage-taking which subjects our populations to poverty and hunger for reasons of political manipulation is unacceptable”, Bisimwa stated.     

M23 rebels launched a war against the DRC government in March 2022 in what they called a war against corruption, xenophobia, and discrimination among others. Since then, many areas have fallen under rebel control in Rutshuru, Masisi, and Nyiragongo territories. The DRC government accuses Rwanda of backing the rebels, an accusation that Rwanda has severally thrashed.

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