The photos above were taken during my visit to Goma, Congo in July 2006. On the left I'm standing in front of all that's left of a huge cathedral that was otherwise destroyed when a volcano erupted on January 17, 2002. The government still hasn't cleaned up the mess or rebuilt the destroyed infrastructure. To the right is a boy posing with his wooden bike - the main mode of transportation for those not working for the UN or some other aid organization.
The one on the left at the top of the page is of a field of lava and, in the background, the volcano that erupted exactly 41 years to the day that Patrice Lumumba was assassinated on January 17, 1961. See GOMA LUMUMBA VOLCANO and CONGO IS LUMUMBA LAND and JFK CRIED FOR CONGO.
On the top right is a scan of a piece of lava I picked up from that Goma field. Notice how pointed, sharp and bumpy it is. Can you imagine that being your floor during the day and your bed at night?
I CAN imagine it and that is what I keep thinking about as I read stories of the thousands of Congolese living in such conditions in Goma - having run from their Kivu villages to escape atrocities being carried out against them by the same Hutus who perpetrated the 1994 genocide in Rwanda - but being blamed on Congolese Tutsis who are trying to defend themselves from similar attacks. The armies of the Kabila Congo government (FARDC) and the United Nations (MONUC) have chosen the side of the Rwandan Hutus (FDLR) against Congolese Tutsis (CNDP) led by Laurent Nkunda as on-again-off-again fighting goes on in the hills beyond the Goma volcanoes and lava. ~ Jackie Jura
Flood of refugees amid Congo conflict
by Scott Baldauf, Christian Science Monitor, Sep 27, 2007
Fresh fighting between the Army [Congo FARDC & Hutu FDLR] and Tutsi rebels [Nkunda CNDP] has prompted new camps of displaced persons to spring up suddenly in the past three weeks, taxing efforts of relief workers to provide food and adequate shelter. In a field of dried lava outside of Goma, some 20,000 Congolese villagers arrived en masse in mid-September, building huts in clusters and sending children in search of food and firewood. They had fled their homes after a new bout of fighting between government troops and ethnic Tutsi rebels.
The political crisis has challenged the international community and the new Congolese government for solutions, but has also created a humanitarian emergency that has propelled an estimated 65,000 displaced civilians from their homes.
The timing is particularly bad. It is the start of the rainy season, a time when most of these villagers should be out planting crops of beans, maize, and cassava. A lost planting season means hunger and could spur civil unrest. "This was the planting time, and I didn't have the time to cultivate," says Ngulu Kishigho, who fled his home in Kimoka a few weeks ago, just days after fighting erupted on Aug. 27....
Just three weeks old, the new Congolese camps have largely appeared overnight, without planning. The challenge of providing food, shelter, toilet facilities, and medical care for tens of thousands of people – especially during the torrential east African rainy season – puts severe strains on humanitarian staffers and current aid channels.
In the past three weeks, food and nonfood assistance has been delivered to nearly 65,000 newly displaced people, according to UNOCHA, the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and more relief is available for the unknown number of people [Tutsis] who may have fled into rebel-held [Nkunda-CNDP] areas. But insecurity and a shaky cease-fire have meant that most aid has been given out in government-held areas thus far.
This puts aid workers, who are neutral in any war, in an uncomfortable position of appearing to pick favorites. A recent aid convoy of 11 trucks attempting to reach rebel-held areas around Mushaki, conducted by the French aid group Solidarite, was halted by an angry crowd in the town of Sake, the last town in government hands. Displaced people in Sake accused Solidarite of feeding the rebels, while displaced people [Tutsis] in the rebel-held [Nkunda-CNDP] town of Mushaki complained that they haven't received food aid since the crisis began. Indian peacekeepers for MONUC held back the crowds, but received their share of abuse as well.
Conditions in the displaced camps around Goma are abysmal and chaotic, despite the efforts of aid workers. Fields intended to be registration sites have rapidly grown into ad hoc towns. Deliveries of food and water are regular, but latrines are still being dug around the clock. Aid groups like UNICEF have started vaccinations for children, and water and sanitation officials keep an eye out for any signs of water-borne diseases....
Nearby, as the sun gave way to a damp tropical dusk, Kahindo Bezeni bent a green sapling to make herself and her six children a hut. She looks up at the darkening sky. It will rain tonight, she knows, and her work picks up pace. "I don't have any shelter, I don't have any plastic sheeting, no blankets, no pots or pans," she says. She points to a pile of saplings on the lava-hard ground. "I just bought these sticks." If she works fast, those sticks will be her home tonight.
New fighting threatens Congo ceasefire (President Kabila with Belgium King Albert). Canada.com, Sep 24, 2007
Congo President Kabila visiting Belgium. Afriquenligne, Sep 21, 2007
Kabila will visit Brussels before heading for New York to participate in the 62nd session of the UN General Assembly....Kabila will ask Belgian authorities to help his country constitute a "professional" army by 2009. On the political front, Belgian interlocutors of the Congolese head of state will not fail to enquire about the agreement recently signed by the Congolese government and China involving US$5 billion for the reconstruction of infrastructure and the exploitation of mines. Official sources in Brussels hinted the feeling that China wants to reap the benefits of the return to democracy in DR Cong, after Europeans laboured to finance Congolese elections for almost US$500 million.
China lending Congo $5-billion. Business Day, Sep 19, 2007
...Congolese Infrastructure and Public Works Minister Pierre Lumbi said yesterday the repayment terms proposed included mining concessions and toll revenue deals to be given to Chinese companies....If fully disbursed, the loan will be one of the biggest Chinese financial commitments in Africa...
Chinese & Congo take giant leap of faith. Intn'l Herald Tribune, Sep 21, 2007
SHANGHAI: The entire world may not have sat up and taken notice in the last week, and that is probably just fine with China, which has just made a major move into central Africa. With its agreement to lend $5 billion to Congo, what might have often looked like a grab-bag approach to the African continent by a country with only sporadic involvement there has finally taken on a distinct outline....China has its eyes on the prize: the world's richest assortment of minerals, from copper to cobalt to uranium to diamonds and gold and on and on, but its game plan reflects a truly Chinese perspective on the world. The new roads and rails are meant not merely to revive Congo's prospects. Nor are they simply intended to facilitate extraction, as much as that remains part of the plan. China is redrawing the economic map in central and southern Africa, linking the copper zone of the south with the port at Matadi, and redirecting other portions of the country's huge mineral potential to Chinese-built networks in Zambia and Angola...
Surviving Congolese soldiers deep in Nkunda’s territory. New Times, Sep 27, 2007
...We wanted to meet with Congolese rebel leader General Laurent Nkunda, and the first thing was to arrange for an appointment. We called from Rwanda, and spoke to the man who has given President Joseph Kabila so many sleepless nights. alling him on the phone seemed crazy, surreal. He picked the phone and said hullo. The man was just calm and appealing. I know perhaps I am risking making some people think that I am consorting with a rebel by saying this, but it was true. We told him we wanted to meet with him for an interview. "We would like to have an inside story of the fighting," I told him....The reporters drove out of Goma in a convoy of three four-wheel drive vehicles into the conflict territory, about 100km away from Goma....Finally I saw the man....We followed Nkunda to a nearby primary school building that served as his press conference room. The rebel is serious; he claimed he is fighting for a reason. The Congolese government says it plans to blacklist Nkunda as the final option to end the recent conflict. However, Nkunda accuses Kinshasa of working with FDLR, a group which he says have ushered a reign of terror on his Tutsi kin with a mission of exterminating them in the same way they perpetrated the 1994 Genocide. Our interviews ended at 8pm. The general left but we remained with the population and soldiers. We were given chance to talk to prisoners. I talked to Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) captives. They spoke fluent Kinyarwanda with fierce faces, and strange voices, full of guilt on their faces. That very night, President Joseph Kabila announced that he was tired of the General and would not continue giving carrots to Nkunda....Our trip back was what I will never forget about DRC. It took almost two and half hours back down to Sake....We were then taken to the military headquarters in Goma. We were interrogated and our journalistic materials confiscated....
Renewed Fighting Breaks Out in DR Congo. New Times, Sep 25 2007
NORTH KIVU - Fresh fighting has broken out in the eastern DRC following alleged attacks on rebel Congolese General Laurent Nkunda's troops by Rwandan Genocide militias based there. The clashes threaten a three-week shaky UN-brokered ceasefire, which had stopped fighting between Nkunda's forces and the Congolese government army backed by the Rwandan Genocide fugitives earlier in the month. Nkunda's Spokesman Rene Munyarugerero said yesterday that fighters of the Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) "on Monday evening attacked our bases in Bwito and Ngungu in Masisi, North Kivu." Heavy fighting was still going on by the time we went to press. He said intense clashes were in the towns of Karuba, Ngungu and Mweso, all of which are close to the Rwandan border. "They (FDLR) attacked us and we are defending ourselves although we have no intentions of mounting a major operation against them now, Munyarugerero said. He said some FDLR fighters had been captured, but could not specify the number....The UN peacekeepers had no proof that CNDP is being attacked by FDLR and the Congolese army. Nkunda who picked up arms after defecting from the national army in 2004 says he is fighting FDLR and other negative elements that have continuously targeted a section of Congolese civilians. He particularly blames FDLR for rape, murder and other human rights abuses in the country's east. FDLR is composed of mainly the remnants of the former Rwandan government soldiers (Far) and Interahamwe militias. Both groups are largely blamed for the 1994 Rwanda Genocide, which claimed an estimated one million people.
From the Horse's Own Mouth - Congo is FDLR Ally. New Times, Sep 25, 2007
Last week the cynics and sceptics were effectively silenced when the Genocide fugitive leader of the murderous gang of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR), Ignace Murwanashyaka, asserted that they had been armed by late Congolese president Laurent Kabila to wage war against the Rwandan government. "It is no secret and everyone knows it" so Murwanashyaka said. There is no more necessary statement needed to show the culpability of the DRC in as far as interfering into the affairs of Rwanda is concerned. Rwanda has been urging DR Congo to disarm the bandits they so heartlessly mobilized and armed. It would be so much easier a decision to make, seeing that the situation has become more complicated that they had bargained for in the first place. Unforeseen, the FDLR have turned on Kabila's countrymen and unleashed a miniscule taste of what they meted out to Rwandans in 1994 - destruction of property, raping, murdering and pillaging generally. First, the DRC has Rwanda's offer to form a joint task force to wipe out the rampaging militias, seeing that it is in both countries' best interests to return the entire region to normalcy. Secondly, there is Monuc, the UN peacekeeping force there, that is ready to help with the mop up. But it all returns to whether the leadership of DR Congo still regards the FDLR as their invited guests and therefore should continue handling them with due courtesy. More to this, it would seem that Congo still balks at this measure because of the hopeless hope that the original agenda may be fulfilled - that of FDLR overrunning Rwanda. With such blatant utterances from killers who should be in prison in the first instance, instead of being facilitated to air their clearly murderous programmes, who will gainsay Rwanda's natural cynicism of endless international mumbo jumboing, when the real issues that should be addressed remain mere talk shows at international broadcast stations? Rwanda has survived international neglect in some important matters; Rwanda will survive the FDLR and complicit neighbours.
KAGAME STRATEGY OF PEACE
NKUNDA & INTORE HEROES
CONGO WOLVES ON NKUNDA
UN PEACEKEEPING NOT KEEPINGPEACE
RWANDA'S SILENT FRIENDS
CONGO WRONG ON NKUNDA
LUMUMBA-LIKE LAURENT NKUNDA
KNOW NKUNDA CONGO
6.Disputed Territories and 12.Ministry of Peace and 11.Ministry of Plenty
~ an independent researcher monitoring local, national and international events ~