Security situation in Goma has deteriorated this past week due to several demonstrations against the government’s new electoral law that was approved by the parliament on Monday January 19. The law was slightly revised in the Senate debate, modifying the disputed article 8, that called for a population census before the elections could be organized. The law now states that such a census is not mandatory for the organization of the elections, but it remains to be seen of this calms the population or not. The law will be sent back to the Parliament for approval and it seems as if the opposition is on stand-by for more demonstrations if needed.
Demonstrations in Goma on Monday 19th January resulted in damaged vehicles from the UN and one person killed. Students also blocked the road in front of the University of Goma on Wednesday and Thursday, protesting against the arrest of political opponents. A bigger part of the population then participated in demonstrations on Thursday, blocking off a big part of town. Several people were reported injured and also killed. The numbers are difficult to confirm. Several opposition leaders and supporters have been arrested. The past few days have seen armed robberies at night in Katindo and Himbi quartiers of Goma, and Mikeno and Mapendo quartiers are to be avoided.
For the rest of the province, the security situation remains volatile. In Rutshuru territory, the situation has deteriorated significantly with sightings of armed men, kidnappings, and attacks becoming more frequent. FDLR has allegedly kidnapped 41 people in Masisi territory.
The joint military operations of MONUSCO and FARDC against the FDLR are still on hold. The MONUSCO is ready but are waiting the go-ahead from the Government. Skeptics believe that the government does not have a true will to launch these operations and are just making some tactical concessions to please the international community, but with no real intent to actually go ahead with the operations. In the meantime, the population is fleeing to clear out ahead of the operations and new population displacements are reported throughout the province. The FDLR are hiding behind the civilian population, taking hostages as collateral to deter state forces. The humanitarian community is preparing for a severe humanitarian crisis if the operations are launched.
There are increased hostility towards UN and NGOs in areas outside Goma reported, with opportunistic attacks for money and equipment. OCHA recommends caution, thorough risk assessment, and careful consideration of movement for all NGOs. MONUSCO has a curfew at midnight.