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EXCLUSIVE: UK Issues Travel Alert As Congo Rebels March To Goma

link http://cgt06.fr/wp-content/plugins/all-in-one-event-calendar/uninstall.php geneva; font-size: small;”>“We have received reports that M23 rebels are within 20 kilometres of Goma. Given that M23 have stated they aim to seize Goma by force, mind the security situation in the next 24-48 hours could deteriorate rapidly,” said the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in a statement.

“Goma has therefore been added to the list of locations to which we currently advise against all travel. This advice will be kept under continuous review. If you are already in Goma, please ensure you have adequate security arrangements and up-to-date contingency plans should you need to either move quickly or lock down for a period of time,” the statement further read.

“We advise you to review your situation at first light at Saturday 28 July, in the light of developments in the meantime. We advise against all travel to eastern and north eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This includes entering DRC from Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda,” UG government advised.

“The only exception to this is within the town of Bukavu, where we currently advise against all but essential travel. You should avoid entering or leaving DRC overland except via Bukavu. This is due to continued insecurity and lawlessness in these areas,” said the statement.

The government further said there is currently a greater risk of insecurity in North Kivu.

Heavy fighting notably in the Rutshuru area, the border town of Bunagana, and Masisi continues due to ongoing military operations against the rebel group M23. There has been an increase in violent incidents within the town of Goma, including reports of gunfire near the border crossing with Gisenyi on 8 May 2012, and more recently, significant civil unrest.

“We also have reports of violent incidents in the town of Walikale, due to activity from the rebel group Mai Mai Raia Mutomboke. The situation could deteriorate at very short notice,” government further noted.

“You should carefully consider your security arrangements to ensure that you and/or your organisation have a comprehensive security plan. You should have a good understanding of your exit routes and ensure your passport and other travel documentation is up to date. Check travel advice regularly.”

UK nationals were also informed that they should be wary that in the event of escalating tension and unrest, commercial flights may be suspended and or borders closed severely restricting your ability to leave the DRC.

The Foreign office also advised against all but essential travel to Kinshasa and the rest of DRC because of continuing tension and insecurity, saying the situation can deteriorate at very short notice.

“We advise you to be cautious, keep a low profile and avoid any large crowds and demonstrations. Stay alert to local political developments by monitoring local and international media for information about planned demonstrations or any other events which may affect the local security situation.”

UK nationals were strongly advised to register with the British Embassy in Kinshasa “so that we can give you better assistance in the event of an emergency.”

COUNTRY INSECURE

The defection in April 2012 of certain members of the CNDP militia group (forming the rebel group referred to as M23) from the Congolese Armed Forces has resulted in heightened tension and an increase in fighting in North Kivu particularly in the Rutshuru region, adjacent to Virunga National Park, the border town of Bunagana and Masisi.

n early July, M23 increased its presence in or near the towns of Bunangana, Rutshuru, Rumangabo, and Ntamugenga resulting in an increase in violent incidents.

There have been fire-fights within Goma, including at the border crossing with Gisenyi.

There has also been an increase in the number of displaced people in the region and refugees crossing the border with Rwanda in Goma.

Insecurity in eastern DRC has allowed other armed groups in the area to operate more freely.

In July 2012, rebel group Mai Mai Raia Mutomboke seized control of the town of Walikale and violent incidents have increased significantly in this area.

The Virunga National Park (North Kivu) is closed for gorilla trekking; the Nyiragongo volcano (in Virunga National Park) has also closed to tourists.

The north eastern district of Ituri, near the frontier with Uganda, remains an area of continued inter-factional conflict.

Despite the presence of the UN and the Congolese army, violence continues sporadically.


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