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DRC: Bleak Ramadan for displaced Muslims in the east

Evening prayer the mosque of Munigi, a small clapboard building in troubled eastern DR Congo serving Muslims displaced by the M23 conflict, on Mar. 27, 2023.   -  
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Cleared / AFP

Democratic Republic Of Congo

Some 500 displaced Muslims, fleeing attacks by M23 rebels, now live in the Munigi camp in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. The front line is located about 10 kilometres away.

Local imam, Ali Assani Mukamba, acknowledges that observing Ramadan in an environment where access to food and water is severely limited is tough.

"A Muslim is used to spending Ramadan in his house, but today Ramadan finds itself in the life of a displaced person. It is very hard to accept such a situation. It's really very hard and we watch it helplessly. We can't do anything and it's even difficult to talk about."

To eat their iftar meal which breaks their fast, the internally displaced only have meagre rations often donated.

Abda Juma Buranga is one of the elders in the camp. He fled his native village of Kibumba, less than 20 kilometres (12 miles) from the camp, when M23 fighters launched an attack in November.

Stop the M23 rebels

"I lost 25 members of my family, cousins, aunts, nephews," the 65-year-old said.

"I have a message for the international community. Let them intervene so that we can go home. Let them tell the M23 to withdraw and Kagame [Editor's note: president of Rwanda] to withdraw the soldiers because here we are suffering a lot, we want to go back to cultivating our fields. Here when a child cries, we have nothing to give him while we have lots of fields in the village."

The rebels took up arms again in late 2021 after years of dormancy, on claims that the government had ignored a pledge to integrate its fighters into the military.

According to reports by independent experts for the United Nations Security Council, Rwanda is backing and equipping the rebels. Kigali denies the claim.

The first internally displaced Muslims in Munigi arrived one year ago.

Further south, in the provincial capital Goma, the deputy Chief in charge of the Muslim community of North Kivu aims to show solidarity with the displaced.

"They [the displaced, editor's note] are obliged to fast as it is an obligation of God, they are also obliged to fast despite the circumstances of the war," Mussa Ahmad Mabonge said.

"We who are here in the city of Goma or in the province of North Kivu, we are supposed to meet people so that we can assist them during this month of Ramadan."

The DRC is the largest internal displacement crisis in Africa, with 5.8 million people internally displaced according to the UN.

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