shredded children, a panicked population

Rutshuru (DR Congo) (AFP) – Germain, 6, and Isaac, 7, were friends. A bomb dropped in the yard of their school in eastern DR Congo during fighting between the army and M23 rebels. The dead torn to pieces, victims of a conflict that is spreading panic and terror in the region.

The two children attended Saint-Gilbert School in Biruma, about 50 km north of Goma, halfway between the capital of North Kivu and Bunagana, a trading center on the Ugandan border. , seized Monday by the rebels from the M23 (“Movement of March 23”).

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For the bombing of Germain and Isaacs’ school on Friday in Rutshuru territory, the Congolese army accused Rwanda of being responsible for what it called a “war crime”. For the conquest of Bunagana, she accused Rwanda of “invading” Congolese territory and again claimed that the Kigali army was fighting alongside the rebels. What Rwanda denies.

On Tuesday night, the Congolese government raised its tone and “condemned the involvement of the Rwandan authorities in supporting, financing and arming this insurgency” and promised to defend “every inch” of its territory.

“We are tired of war, may they give us peace so that my eight other children can live and grow,” pleads Sifa, 29, Isaac’s mother, who sits outside her house.

Her husband, Bigego, does not know his exact age, but believes he was “maybe 30 when M23 was here in 2013”, which would make him 40 today.

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A predominantly Tutsi insurgency born in 2012, M23 briefly occupied Goma before being defeated in 2013 by the DRC Armed Forces (FARDC) and UN peacekeeping forces. He again took up arms at the end of last year, accusing the Congolese authorities of failing to honor an agreement on the demobilization and reintegration of his combatants.

Joseph Nziyunvira, Germain’s father, asks that “developed countries help the Congo so that justice is done and the guilty are punished”. He accuses Rwanda, even though he admits he is “neither a politician nor a soldier”. “I’m a farmer,” he said, “but look, my son was suddenly killed. And we’re still scared because the fighting continues.”

– “Save my life” –

Not far from his house, in the middle of the banana trees, the graves of the two children have been dug, flowers planted. The bodies of the little boys were so damaged that their families wanted to bury them immediately. “But we could not go to the cemetery because of the security conditions,” their parents explain.

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Since this bombing, the people have lived in terror. “The inhabitants sleep outside, for three days there was no school, we live with fear in our stomachs,” says Floribert Hakizumwami, village manager.

In Katale, a neighboring village to Biruma, another school was also bombed, its tin roof pierced, two classrooms were completely destroyed. There were no casualties, the buildings were empty during the bombing.

On the way to Goma, army patrols are intensified, tanks are visible. But the panic persists. In the adjacent area of ​​Nyiragongo, where fighting opposed the army to the M23 in late May, the population fled, dozens of families left with meager belongings.

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“I have no fixed destination, I just have to save my life,” Elisabeth Nsengiyunva explains. “The residents of Gasiza, very close to Virunga Park, told us they had seen the rebels, who told them they were coming and wanted to kill us all,” the mother of the family adds in panic.

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An army officer in Kibumba, about twenty kilometers from Goma, regrets these population movements caused by rumors, he assures, acted on social networks.

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