The conflict between the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) and M23 rebels in Rutshuru territory has now entered its third week, and is showing no signs of abating. Villages lie empty on the front lines, as thousands of internally displaced persons take refuge in neighbouring settlements, living side-by-side with the army trying to reclaim rebel-held positions.
As heavy machine gun fire, rockets and mortars pound the lush green hills on the Rwandan border, civilians lie in hospitals, and memories of North Kivu’s previous conflicts are stirred.
Eastern Congo has been the stage for much of the region’s conflict since 1996, fuelled by the fall-out of the Rwandan genocide in 1994.
In 2009, CNDP rebels were integrated into the government army following a rebellion the previous year. It is now many of these soldiers who are once again fighting the FARDC.
Josephu Jibesho, an elderly man left behind in the the now-deserted village of Gisiza, says that he has seen many people die. A rocket-propelled grenade landed just a few metres behind his hut. Rebels occupy the hills overlooking Gisiza.
“I’ve seen many bad things,” he said. “I’ve seen some other wars, but this is the worst.”