Thursday, 29 November 2012

 Trouble in Goma                                                                         29 November 2012                                                                                              



I've just come back from assignment in Goma, the capital of the mineral rich region of north Kivu in the Democratic Republic of Congo where rebel M23 fighters recently took control with what appears to be the aid of a neighbouring state.




Myself and Daily Telegraph correspondent David Blair had been planning the trip for some weeks, the plan was to look at the plight of the vast numbers of innocent civillians who had been displaced by the most recent conflict and to find hard evidence of Rwandan interference in Congolese affairs, Rwanda being a country which has traditionally received a large sum of aid from the British taxpayer and become somewhat dependent on it  .



These plans appeared to have been scuppered at first when news broke that M23 rebels had crept even closer to Goma and Congolese FADRC troops were retreating quickly away from a relatively small rebel force, but due to previous recent history we found it hard to believe that they would ever actually take Goma, how wrong we were. The city fell on the day of our arrival in the region to little resistance and the morning after the fall of the city we spent the oncoming days collecting the evidence we needed for David's story.



There were terribly saddening scenes at the many IDP camps scattered around Goma, many families having been displaced two or three times. Kanyaruchinya Camp one of the largest camps on the outskirts of the city which until recently was the refuge of over 100,000 people emptied almost overnight as the fighting came close to the city and right under the impotent gaze of Monusco peacekeepers . With many Aid organisations evacuating the majority of their staff in the wake of the rebel advance to neighbouring Rwanda, the sudden movement of vast numbers of civilians was a potentially grave situation with many people lacking food, water or shelter .



In the Heal Africa hospital in Central Goma, a few days after the city's capture civilians were still arriving with wounds from the fighting after being caught in the cross fire, including pregnant mothers who sadly lost their unborn babies. 5 year old Sami Bahati was one of those victims and now has a bullet from an assault rifle lodged in his bladder which surgeons at the hospItal say can't be removed without the help and expertise of a Urologist, of which there are none in eastern Congo.

But why is this happening at all ? As with many other developing countries the DRC is cursed by it's mineral wealth . The country is rich with Gold, Diamonds and perhaps more profoundly Coltan, a metallic ore used in the production of mobile phones and other electronic equipment, and the DRC has the largest reserves of Coltan known at present, although other nations such as Australia, Canada and Brazil also have mines. Many blame these incredible resources for prolonging and funding the conflict in the eastern DRC, and there has been evidence of the precious mineral being traded illegally by neighbouring countries and perhaps helps explain their alleged involvement in the conflict. 
Perhaps if companies paid more attention to the ethics of whom they were doing business with the innocent civilians of the Congo and other nations in a similar position wouldn't have to suffer at the hands of corrupt Dictators and Rebel fighters vying for control of riches which should benefit all .
The Democratic Republic of Congo is a beautiful country rich with culture, wildlife( including the mountain Gorilla), wonderful people and an incredible landscape with lush rain forests and active volcanoes . The majority of the county's inhabitants should be living very comfortably off it's natural resources, when in fact the vast majority live in poverty and suffer at the hands of the tiny minority in power that ultimately profit .


David Blair's piece in the Daily Telegraph can be found at the link below:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/democraticrepublicofcongo/9700471/Rwandans-fighting-an-illegal-war-in-the-Congo.html


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