My flight to Kigali was booked for May 7th. My plan, to travel to Goma, and then into the interior of the North Kivu Province with our partners at HEAL Africa. I was going to visit CTA sponsored safe houses in Nyamilima, Kisharo and Alimbongo, spend time with the women, see how the programming is progressing, photograph, take stories, and inquire into the current funding needs. The plan was to then travel to even more remote areas, to shells of houses where funding had been abandoned to reach women who are in desperate need of assistance.
And then I received an email from Goma. After over a year of relative calm, there has been new fighting in the region. All mobility out of Goma halted. And why? I’ll try to make it brief…
Bosco Ntaganda is on the lam. A former rebel leader-turned-army general, “the Terminator” is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of recruiting child soldiers and the international community has pressured President Kabila into going after him.
For the past few years Bosco has been living freely in Goma despite the court’s arrest warrant. No one dared go after him as he was a key piece of the Rwandan-backed, Tutsi armed group, the CNDP, which in 2008 threatened to capture Goma, the strategic capital of eastern DRC. To save the Kivus, Kabila struck a deal with Rwanda – arrest current leader Laurent Nkunda and neutralise the CNDP by integrating its units into the Congolese army. In return, Rwandan troops could continue their pursuit of the FDLR (the militia responsible for the 1994 genocide) – all under the command of, you’ve got it, Bosco.
Fast forward and the tables turn against Bosco. But, he is prepared, he has amassed considerable wealth from illegal mining and influence while commanding several thousand CNDP troops who were never fully integrated into the Congolese military. He quickly disappeared into the bush with hundreds of loyal soldiers, and is creating havoc once more.
Now, Bosco and his troops are storming the countryside, capturing significant territory, and clashing with the Congolese military. Sadly, this means that the average Congolese civilian is once again in the path of two mighty forces going to battle. Reports are flooding out of civilian rape, murder, and tens of thousands of people fleeing to overcrowded camps or neighboring countries. And the international community is warning of yet another humanitarian crisis
There is an old African saying, “When two elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers.” The Congolese are all too well versed at these battles and are bracing themselves for what is to come. In the meantime, we can only step up our support. CTA will be sending over much needed dollars to support the safe houses which provide shelter and post-exposure meds to women who have been raped. And I will be traveling to Goma in the coming weeks to bring updates from the field.
Please consider making a donation at this crucial time. Every dollar helps and I will see personally to your efforts going directly to ease the suffering of the women and children who have no one else to help them.