The fight between the Congolese army (FARDC) and the rebel group M23 took a serious turn for the worst on Friday. The rebels have taken over two major towns in the last two days and are right now just a few kilometers from Rumangabo. Their goal will most likely be to take over the nearby military camp, but we are waiting to see if they will come our direction as well.
The crisis started on Friday when some 600 Congolese army special forces fled into Uganda following clashes with the rebels who seized the border town of Bunagana. By Friday evening they had quickly moved west toward the town of Rutshuru, about an hour north of the park headquarters. Tomorrow we expect the rebels will attack the military base just a few kilometers from our headquarters.
On Friday morning after hearing the news, we began to evacuate non-essential staff from Rumangabo to Goma. Preparations were made today for a possible evacuation of the remaining ranger families and staff from Rumangabo, about 180 women and children, with a combined total of nearly 800 evacuated. Everyone is on stand-by, ready to begin setting up a camp for these families just west of Goma.
We are hoping the rebels will pass us by unharmed and in tact. Their grievance is not with the park.
If you would like to help the park with expenses we are facing through this crisis and evacuations, please contribute using the Open Donation item to the right of this blog. We need your support!