The rain continues to pour down. Amid claps of thunder and bright flashes of lightening, the rains pours down as no where else in the world, and all I can think of are the tens of thousands of internally displaced here in the congo. Even if they have shelter, it’s likely to leak in this onslaught. Women, children and men with nothing but the clothes on their backs, braving the elements.
The fighting grew closer to Goma today. I was able to visit the safe house in Kibumba, just 20km north of Goma city center. Yet when we called to let the supervisor know, she said the M23 had come to the town. They were fighting with the FARDC and the whole village was fleeing. We could hear gunfire in the background. UN gunships began circling overhead, heading to the front lines.
The trip has been intense and fruitful so far. Immediately upon arrival in Goma, I was able to jump in a HEAL Africa vehicle heading north from Goma to Kiwanja and Rutshuru, neighboring towns and key positions for the rebels controlling transit and supplies to Goma and the north. Rebel activity had decreased in the area so I took the chance and was able to visit the houses of Kiwanja, Kisharo and Nyamilima. Each of the houses was alive with activity, women threshing recently harvested soy beans and working on sewing, embroidery and basket-weaving projects. Rape cases have grown with military activity, and the staff are no longer paid (two at each house receive $100/month as a token), but continue to work.
Travel upon the road north from Goma is restricted to daylight hours between 8am-3pm so we spent two nights in Kiwanja. We left early Sunday morning for Goma, a driver, myself and two sick women we were bringing to the hospital. Despite our caution, about half way to Goma, we were ambushed by armed rebels. We were forced from the car, beaten with AK47s and thoroughly searched. They stole most of my possessions which luckily were few, my phones, a camera and some cash – I had left
everything else in Goma just in case…. I watched as they unloaded an entire mini-bus of 20 people, forcing them to sit on the ground, kicking and butting them with the AKs. Luckily, no one was badly hurt, we were all released and allowed to continue our route. Welcome to life in the Congo.