UN Suspends Aid Flights in Eastern DR Congo Over Insecurity

The United Nations Air Humanitarian Aid Service-UNHAS has suspended flights to the North Kivu province in the Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) over insecurity.  

UNHAS is managed by the World Food Program (WFP), which helps humanitarian actors quickly access the most remote areas that would otherwise be inaccessible, either due to the lack of infrastructure or insecurity.  

In a statement released by the WFP communications department in DR Congo, the company has suspended the flights until the security situation in the area is assessed. The affected flights according to the statement include; Goma-Beni-Bunia; Goma-Walikale-Pinga-Kibua-Masisi-Oninga-Kirumba- Rwindi-Roe and Nobili. 

The decision follows an incident on Friday, February 24, 2023, when the company’s helicopter carrying 10 passengers and three crew members on board came under heavy gunfire, 10 minutes from landing in Goma on its return flight from Walikale. The helicopter however managed to land and everyone came out unhurt. 

The humanitarian agency did not provide any details on the perpetrators of the shootings on this helicopter. Cases of shooting at humanitarian aid helicopters are common in north Kivu province since fighting between the M23 rebels and Armed Forces of Democratic Republic of Congo (FARDC) soldiers started in March 2022.  

On February 5, 2023, a United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) helicopter was shot at in a forest near Goma city while taking off from Beni to Goma.                  

A South African Soldier aboard the chopper was killed and another injured.  The helicopter however managed to land at Goma airport. DR Congo government accused M23 rebels of masterminding the attack, a claim the rebels refuted.

In March 2022, eight peacekeepers under MONUSCO died after a chopper they were using to conduct air patrol was shot in Tchanzu, Southeast of Rutshuru territory, North Kivu Province. DR Congo government also accused M23 rebels of shooting down the chopper. But M23 rebels also accused FARDC soldiers of shooting it using a self-propelled 122-millimeter multiple rocket launcher.    

Meanwhile, civilians are fleeing the town of Sake in Masisi territory after heavy fighting between M23 rebels and FARDC soldiers and a militia coalition broke out Monday in the villages of Busakara, Kaumba towards Luhonga, about 5 kilometers to the town of Sake.

According to locals, detonations of heavy and light weapons have been heard since 4:30 AM. Locals are fleeing towards Goma city and Minova. On Sunday, M23 rebels captured the nearby Coltan mining area of Rubaya.                      

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