Friday, November 7, 2008

Fear is for the rich

We continue to cross into Goma during the day and return to Rwanda in the evening (due to security concerns).

Goma is eternally Goma. There are a couple of UN tanks sitting on the round point near our apartment, and numerous vehicles full of UN soldiers are circulating around the town. But other than that, very little seems to have changed. People seem to be feeling somewhat hopeful. My neighbor assured me that everything is fine in Goma now. He said the chaos in Goma last week was due to the fact that the people who are supposed to be protecting the town (I am assuming he meant the UN) were not paying enough attention. But now they have been awakened, and since they are awake, no one will be able to destroy Goma again.

This belief seems to be common in the streets. There is a renewed faith in the UN's ability to protect the town. 5 days ago the UN was stating that it could not guarantee the protection of Goma, it would do it's best to protect civilians but it could not guarantee that Goma would not fall. This seemed link an invitation to the rebels. Now the UN is holding press conferences and stating that it will open fire on any rebels who attempt to take the town. Clearly the UN is attempting to regain the public's faith. And they appear to be succeeding on some level.

But Nkunda is at the gates. He gave a press conference yesterday filled with his usual bluster. He continues to state that he and his rebels will take down the government (all the way in the capital, 1000 miles away) if the government refuses direct talks. His commanding officers continue to claim that they will take Goma.

Fighting has restarted in a number of rural areas. Nkunda claims that he has not broken his self-proclaimed cease-fire and that he has merely fought off attacks from the government. But this distinction is hard to understand at best. Nkunda's rebels have taken two towns in the North, forcing the population to flee further. They have also retaken the town of Kiwaja. The town of Kiwanja was under Nkunda's control until Tuesday when another rebel group allied with the government retook the town in a surprising show of power. This lead to bitter fighting between the two groups, and eventually Nkunda's rebels reclaimed the town. However there are wide spread reports that many civilians were killed by Nkunda's forces as they reclaimed the town, apparently in a retaliatory fashion.

By all accounts, it appears Nkunda is tightening his control and continuing to increase his territory in the area. At the same time there are reports that soldiers from Angola and Zimbabwe are being brought in by the government. This feels like a chess game, with each side carefully positioning its pieces.

In the meantime the presidents of Rwanda and Congo attend a summit meeting with the UN in Kenya. One more piece to position on this chess board.

As I was walking around Goma I talked with young one man, who perhaps best summarized the mood of Goma. I asked if he was scared.

He replied "Fear is a luxury for the rich." If you are poor, what does it matter if you are afraid? There is nothing you can do about it. You can't run away, you can't change anything. You just keep on living. What is the point of being afraid?"


Anonymous said...


I’m a journalist at the french tv station France 24 (

I’d like to interview you on what’s happening in Goma.

Do you think you could send me your phone number? My email address is jpain AT

Best regards,

Anonymous said...

Dear Shona, it would be great if you could share your reports on - we are trying to raise the profile of local reports(ing). You can contact me for more info - ory AT