The two children went to Saint-Gilbert school in Biruma, about 50 km north of Goma, halfway between the capital of North Kivu and Bunagana, a trading center on the Ugandan border. , seized Monday by the rebels of the M23 (“Movement of March 23”).

For the bombing of Germain and Isaac’s school last Friday in Rutshuru territory, the Congolese army accused Rwanda of being responsible for what it called a “war crime”. For the capture of Bunagana, she accused Rwanda of “invading” Congolese territory, again claiming that the Kigali army was fighting alongside the rebels. What Rwanda denies.

On Tuesday evening, the Congolese government raised its tone, “condemning the participation of the Rwandan authorities in supporting, financing and arming this rebellion” and promising to defend “every centimeter” of its territory.

“We are tired of war, may they give us peace, so that my eight other children can live and grow,” implores Sifa, 29, Isaac’s mother, sitting outside her house.

Her husband, Bigego, does not know his exact age but believes he was “maybe 30 when M23 was here in 2013”, which would make him 40 today.

A predominantly Tutsi rebellion born in 2012, the M23 briefly occupied Goma before being defeated in 2013 by the DRC armed forces (FARDC) and UN peacekeepers. He took up arms again at the end of last year, accusing the Congolese authorities of not having respected an agreement for the demobilization and reintegration of his combatants.

Joseph Nziyunvira, Germain’s father, asks that “developed countries help the Congo, so that justice is done and the culprit is punished”. He accuses Rwanda, even if, he admits, he is “neither a politician nor a soldier”. “I’m a farmer,” he said, “but lo and behold, my son was suddenly killed. And we’re still scared because the fighting continues.”

– “Save my life” –

Not far from his house, in the middle of the banana trees, the graves of the two children have been dug, flowers planted. The bodies of the little boys were so damaged that their families wanted to bury them immediately. “But we couldn’t go to the cemetery, because of the security conditions,” explain their parents.

Since this bombardment, the population has lived in terror. “The inhabitants sleep outside, for three days there was no school, we live with fear in our stomachs”, says Floribert Hakizumwami, village chief.

In Katale, a neighboring village of Biruma, another school was also bombarded, its tin roof pierced, two classrooms completely destroyed. There, there were no casualties, the buildings were empty during the bombardment.

On the road to Goma, army patrols have intensified, tanks are visible. But the panic remains. In the neighboring territory of Nyiragongo, where fighting opposed the army to the M23 at the end of May, the population fled, dozens of families left with meager possessions.

“I have no fixed destination, I just have to save my life”, explains Elisabeth Nsengiyunva. “The inhabitants of Gasiza, very close to the Virunga park, told us that they had seen the rebels, who told them that they were coming and were going to kill us all”, adds, panicked, the mother of the family.

An army officer in Kibumba, about twenty km from Goma, deplores these population movements caused by rumors, he assures, peddled on social networks.