Students stuck, borders close due to Eastern Congo conflict

Rwandan students who are enrolled in universities in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) cannot reach their campuses because of border closures amid conflict in the east of the country and rising tensions between the DRC and Rwanda. The affected students are those who are based in or study in the Goma, which borders Rwanda.

During the past few days, fighting has intensified between the armed forces of the DRC and the M23 rebels, which has been active in the area for years. The DRC has been accusing Rwanda of backing the armed group.

In turn, Rwanda has been accusing the DRC of recruiting members of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), which is active in Rwanda and has members who have been accused of involvement in the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

As part of the ongoing fighting, the DRC allegedly fired rockets into Rwanda that destroyed property and injured people in the north of the country. A DRC soldier, who crossed the border and shot at police, was killed earlier in June.

Border closures ordered

As a result, the DRC has ordered daily border closures at 3pm, restricting the free movement of people, including thousands of university students who crossed the border on a daily basis to study in different universities.

“I am stuck and I cannot follow courses due to border closure,” said Claude Nyota, an evening student from the University of Goma.

“I am not sure I will be able to complete my studies as I have missed classes for days and I have no hope that the border will reopen [permanently] soon,” he added, referring to the fighting that continues in the region.

At the border, known as Grande Barrière, the primary border between Rwanda and Goma, on the DRC side, University World News could see students getting stuck from about 2pm. Some presented negative tests for COVID-19 and the vaccination certificates to get access.

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