Humanitarian Disaster Unfolds in Eastern Congo

Eastern Congo

IPP Camp 2009 by Georgianne Nienaber

The M23 has declared a cease fire and Buffer Zone around Goma (November19); DR Congo Rejects Offer

The General Staff of the Congolese Revolutionary Army, in ARC/M23 acronym informs national and international opinion after the decision of the Political Movement released this Sunday, November 18, 2012 declaring the cessation of hostilities to give the chance to the peaceful resolution of the crisis currently underway and while our forces withdrew from around the city of Goma to create a buffer zone to prevent any possibility of confrontation of forces, government army solves resume its offensive against our positions.

The General Staff of the Congolese Revolutionary Army invites all residents of the town of Goma and its surroundings stay calm and quietly follow the evolution of the situation from their residences. Our forces will be responsible for ensuring the security and quietude to all, as is the case throughout the extent of the territory we control.

As international media remained focused on Gaza over the weekend, a humanitarian disaster is unfolding in eastern Congo.

Before considering an analysis of the situation and reports from the United Nations and the rebel group M23, here is an email from a Congolese citizen who lives in Goma. Readers looking for an unfiltered and unbiased account will find it in his words. For obvious reasons, he cannot be publicly identified, but this man has been a trusted friend in Congo for over six years. Over the years, he has been my contact and liaison with leaders of the IDP (internally displaced persons) camps in and around Goma.

The acronym FRDC refers to the regular Congolese army, Forces Armees de la Republique Democratique du Congo. More commonly, you will read the acronym as FARDC.

M23 is a rebel group made up of former fighters from the former National Congress for the Defense of the People (CNDP), led by General Laurent Nkunda who has been under house arrest in Rwanda since January 2009. They have changed their name in recent weeks to the Congolese Revolutionary Army, but the old name seems to be sticking.

After Nkunda’s arrest by Rwanda in 2009, negotiations resulted in a March 23, 2009 peace deal. M23 takes its name from the date of the peace deal.

Here is an account of what is was like to be living in Goma last night.

Once more people from Goma have spent a dark Sunday. The M23 who were reported to be at Kibumba at about 28km from Goma last Saturday, were at Kanyaruchinya at about 10km from Goma. What was bad is that this was the big displaced camp where there were more than 18,000 people. Because these people in the camp and those living in that locality could not resist the bombings in the area, they started fleeing again from Kanyaruchinya to Mugunga situated at about 20km from there. At the same time, the FRDC who were on the front line were coming from there on foot carrying their weapons. They were scattered in town. It was general panic. At the same time, some people were crossing the border to go to Gisenyi. Some other people working for international NGOs were evacuated to Gisenyi, the military families were emptying the camps, families living near the airport and the military camps were also moving to other places. The bombing noise was now heard in Goma as the battlefield getting nearer and nearer. Fear was total and the sky was black.

Later in the Evening, the Governor addressed the population that M23 will not get into Goma, that there is negotiation in Uganda for the issue. But at night, at around 10pm, soldiers (FRDC) wanted to loot. There was detonation of guns for more than 3 hours.

In 24 hours, we don’t know what will happen. As consequence of this, most shops didn’t open. It is by chance that I have found a Cyber Cafe. Food is more expensive. This is a humanitarian disaster. In Goma, people, including, myself, live on daily business, most people stay at home to observe what will happen later. Children were asked not to go to school.

I will be updating you about what happens.

This is the civilian perspective and it vividly relates a looming humanitarian disaster, especially since the United Nations shelling click here of military targets is also hitting IDP camps.The Congolese army is looting parts of Goma, and the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) are fleeing to Rwanda; leaving the displaced without the food and medical aid that NGOs have provided and which the displaced are now dependent upon.

An internal United Nations document asks some important questions that are not being answered as the international press seeks simplistic answers and reports broad accusations without offering deeper analysis. This is taken directly from the DDR/RR Weekly Report, North Kivu, 12-16 November 2012. DDRRR means Disarmament, Demobilization, Repatriation, Reintegration and Resettlement of foreign armed groups. A UN source provided the report. Here is an excerpt:

Why in the world there is a delay in implementing the much sought political solution? What might be lying behind the lethargy, or maybe this apparent failure, in deploying on the ground the so-called neutral international force?

Recently, the USA ambassador to the UN, Mrs. Suzan Rice (sic), has declared General Sultani Makenga a persona non grata, liable to prosecution at the International Criminal Court, for allegedly recruiting children, thereby putting the indicted General on the black list of most wanted people. [Makenga is M23 General]

The border of Bunagana, separating the DRC and Uganda was also closed, has dealt a financial blow to the M23, which, under these circumstances can do no better than increase its military pressure on Goma, and put Kinshasa at the corner and accept negotiations. This could also be another way for the M23 rebellion to cope out of the diplomatic and political fire that has befallen it in recent days. For Kinshasa have very meager leeway to put a definitive end to this rebellion, despite its current reluctance to negotiate with the rebels.

Furthermore, the infiltration of militaries from some neighboring countries is no longer a secret. This shows that the countries of the Great Lakes Region still have a long way to go to cooperate sincerely with the DRC to bring lasting peace in this war-torn country. It also provides sufficient evidence for the military and political support that the M23 have been receiving from those countries.

Rwanda and Uganda have consistently denied offering military aid. No one has been able to definitely confirm whether this is true or false, but we have seen photos of arms the M23 has taken from the Congolese army as FARDC soldiers flee from the battlefield,as well as photos of civilian dwellings shelled by the United Nations (MONUSCO) in August.

Human Rights Watch (click here) and the UN Group of Experts (GoE) (click here) fallen under clouds of bias accusations.

The M23 says it has no plans to take the city of Goma, but it is clear they are in a position to do so.

On November 18, the M23, now named the Congolese Revolutionary Army, issued a press release with the following demands:

To allow a peaceful exit to the actual situation, our Movement demands the Government of Kinshasa as what follows:

  • The immediate suspension of ongoing military offensive led by Governmental force on route GOMA- KIBATI, TONGO-KALENGERA, BUSENDO-MABENGA, NGWENDA-KATWIGURU and KISEGURU-KINYANDONYI KITAGOMA.
  • The complete demilitarization of the city and the airport of GOMA in 24 hours and the protection of the civil populations by the present force of MONUSCO as it is stipulated by their mandate.
  • In 48 hours forth, the border of BUNAGANA must be opened to allow the population living in areas under our control to be able to move for its vital needs as the health care, studies and supply in needs of the first necessity.
  • georgianne nienaberThe official and public statement of intent on the radio and on national television by the Government of Kinshasa, for the delay not exceeding 24 hours, announcing the opening of direct political negotiations with the Movement of March 23rd and none armed Political Opposition must be involved, the Society and the Congolese Diaspora.

Whom do we believe?

Truth, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

In war there is little beauty,and the innocent, as always, have the most to lose.

Georgianne Nienaber

Posted: Monday, 19 November 2012

Published by the LA Progressive on November 19, 2012
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About Georgianne Nienaber

Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota, New Orleans and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill Magazine, The Ugandan Independent, Rwanda's New Times, India's TerraGreen, COA News, ZNET, OpEdNews, Glide Magazine, The Journal of the International Primate Protection League, Africa Front, The United Nations Publication, A Civil Society Observer, Bitch Magazine, and Zimbabwe's The Daily Mirror. Her fiction exposé of insurance fraud in the horse industry, Horse Sense, was re-released in early 2006. Gorilla Dreams: The Legacy of Dian Fossey was also released in 2006. She spent much of 2007-2009 doing research in South Africa, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Georgianne was in DRC as a MONUC-accredited journalist, and has been working in Southern Louisiana investigating hurricane reconstruction and getting to know the people there since late 2007. She is a member of the Memphis Chapter of the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. Georgianne is currently developing a short story collection set in Louisiana, and is continuing "to explore the magic of the Deep South."