1. Home
  2. Africa
  3. DRC

Civilian population in Masisi at risk

The fertile hills of Masisi district, in eastern DRC's North Kivu province
The fertile hills of Masisi district, in eastern DRC's North Kivu province (Lisa Clifford/IRIN)

As Masisi, a lush territory in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), finds itself surrounded by military elements and mounting conflict, humanitarian agencies grow increasingly concerned about its civilian population.

M23, eastern Congo's latest rebel group, emerged in Masisi District in April when officers of the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP) defected from government forces and amassed troops in the hills. Now the group has taken Goma, the capita of North Kivu Province.

Masisi is a transit corridor for everything from minerals to arms, and it is a former stronghold of CNDP. Currently under government control, it is also home to the Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo (APCLS), an armed group now allied with FARDC, the national army.

Northwest of Masisi town is the unpredictable Raia Mutomboki, an anti-Rwandaphone Mai Mai, or rebel, group now allied with M23. To the northeast is Mai Mai Cheka, which is known for beheadings and is said to be engaging with M23. To the south, in Minova, is FARDC, which is also known for rights abuses.

In short, the population of Masisi is in trouble.

''It's a terrible road, huge insecurity, tons of militia, hundreds of existing camps - already it's a catastrophe''

On the move

"It's a terrible road, huge insecurity, tons of militia, hundreds of existing camps - already it's a catastrophe," said Tariq Riebl, humanitarian coordinator for the NGO Oxfam.

Five camps for internally displaced people northeast of Masisi's Mushaki Village have emptied out so far - at least one due to pillaging by Raia Mutomboki - leaving 50,000 people pre-emptively on the move.

Many of those who fled Masisi have arrived at Mugunga I and Lac Vert camps just outside Goma.

"Insecurity is hampering aid efforts, with ongoing fighting and attacks preventing aid workers from reaching some areas for prolonged periods of time," said a 26 November Oxfam statement.

Lack of protection

On 14 November, the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) issued a public statement calling for MONUSCO, the UN peacekeeping force in DRC, and the army to urgently intervene to stop "Congo's forgotten conflict" in Masisi. The organization documented at least 18 tit-for-tat killings and the burning of displacement camps and villages, some despite "the presence of a MONUSCO base less than a kilometre away".

In putting down the M23 rebellion in Rutshuru - another North Kivu territory - that has been gathering pace since May, the government army left areas of Masisi District unprotected and rebel groups moved in. "This has caused an unjustifiable lack of protection for the population," said a JRS staff member from Masisi.


This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

Share this article
Join the discussion

Hundreds of thousands of readers trust The New Humanitarian each month for quality journalism that contributes to more effective, accountable, and inclusive ways to improve the lives of people affected by crises.

Our award-winning stories inform policymakers and humanitarians, demand accountability and transparency from those meant to help people in need, and provide a platform for conversation and discussion with and among affected and marginalised people.

We’re able to continue doing this thanks to the support of our donors and readers like you who believe in the power of independent journalism. These contributions help keep our journalism free and accessible to all.

Show your support as we build the future of news media by becoming a member of The New Humanitarian. 

Become a member of The New Humanitarian

Support our journalism and become more involved in our community. Help us deliver informative, accessible, independent journalism that you can trust and provides accountability to the millions of people affected by crises worldwide.