International Condemnation Mounts as Rwanda Rejects Blame for Attacks on Displaced Persons Camp in Goma, DRC

On May 5th, 2024, in Gaborone, Botswana, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) voiced strong condemnation of the horrific attacks perpetrated by M23 rebels on May 3rd. This devastating incident at the Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) Camp in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), led to the deaths of at least 16 civilians and left about 30 others injured, many of whom were women and children. SADC has labeled these actions as severe violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws.

In the wake of these attacks, the Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (SAMIDRC), alongside the DRC National Army (FARDC), announced operations aimed at neutralizing M23 rebel forces to restore peace and security. Their mission emphasizes opening supply routes to Goma, which have been blocked, worsening the humanitarian situation.

Adding to the international outcry, the European Union and its Member State Embassies in the DRC condemned similar attacks at Lac Vert and Mugunga, which occurred on the same day. These bombings claimed several lives, including those of at least six children, and injured numerous others. The EU delegation underscored the urgency of an immediate ceasefire and stressed the need for safe and unhindered access for humanitarian workers.

Amid these tensions, President Félix Tshisekedi returned to Kinshasa after a European tour, where he sought international support following these crises. Concurrently, DRC’s Minister of National Defense, Jean Pierre Bemba, reported that M23 rebels, allegedly backed by the Rwandan military, were intensifying their forces across border points such as Kibumba and Kabuhanga.

Further escalating diplomatic tensions, Christophe Lutundula, DRC’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, has called on the United Nations Security Council to classify the bombings as war crimes and crimes against humanity, pointing directly at the involvement of M23 and the Rwandan Defense Force (RDF).

In a rebuttal, the Rwandan Government, on May 5th, 2024, denounced allegations made by the U.S. Department of State that without evidence, implicated Rwanda in the bombings. They criticized these premature accusations and called for a credible investigation to establish the facts, accusing the DRC government and its allies of using Rwanda as a scapegoat for their own governance and security failures.