Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Indepdence Day in Goma: Part II

Argentine and Mapendo (two of the SHONA women) spent last night trying to decide where to hide. They heard shooting and assumed the town was being attacked. After all, Eastern Congo is still a war-zone. When the sound of explosions eventually quieted, they tried to go to sleep, assuring themselves that it had just been a random gun-battle.

This morning they arrived at class and I asked them what they thought of last nights events. They said, "Yes that was a lot of shooting. We thought the war was starting again."

In fact it was fireworks. Yesterday was Independence Day in Congo and a fireworks display ran for at least half an hour last night. I couldn't see the fireworks from my house, and apparently Argentine and Mapendo couldn't see them from their hiding spots. But we could all hear the explosions, and I have to say that it was as long and impressive sounding a display as I have ever heard.

I, for one, am not suprised the a fireworks display in a region which is still a war-zone, would scare the living daylights out of people. They announced it on the radio beforehand but many people, like Argentine and Mapendo, didn't hear the warnings and were left to assume the worst.

Here is the incident as reported by Reuters...

GOMA, Congo, June 30 (Reuters) -
"Independence day fireworks sent terrified Congolese sprinting for cover on Tuesday in fear that war had broken out again in their eastern city.

Officials had organised the display in Goma to highlight efforts to end more than a decade of conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo and to show a sign of normal life returning to the region, where a peace deal took hold in January.

But residents feared it was a raging gun battle."

Especially in many rural areas, Eastern Congo is still a war zone, with or without a fireworks display. In too many places villagers still sleep in the forests for fear of being attacked in their homes.

And even in Goma, security is a distant dream. Look at Mapendo's comment...

"Yes that was a lot of shooting".

Mapendo said this today, in a casual sort of way, well-after she had time to decide that the "war" had not actually started again. Still, it seemed entirely probable to her, that with or without a war, a raging gun battle could be conducted nearby. What kind of peace is this that the average citizen does not even need a war to explain over thirty minutes of intense explosions and shooting?


Rosemildo Sales Furtado said...

Hello! Congratulations to you, because you have a beautiful blog. If you put a translator, will be much easier for everyone to understand and comment on texts.



Anonymous said...

MJPC blames the Congolese Government for the Deteriorating Situation in East Congo(DRC)

"There is no excuse for missing to pay salaries to soldiers in lawless eastern Congo for six months"

Following the deteriorating situation in east Congo, the MJPC called today for the Congolese Government to urgently pay the salaries to thousands of soldiers who have not been paid for over six months in eastern Congo, take swift action to enforce the International Criminal Court's (ICC) warrant against Bosco Ntaganda and to hold accountable perpetrators of sexual violence against women for their acts.

"Failing to hold accountable individuals who commit war crimes and crimes against humunity continues to be the leading cause of widespread and systematic sexual violence acts against girls and women in the easten Congo" said Makuba Sekombo, Community Affairs Director of the Mobilization for Justice and Peace in the DR Congo (MJPC).

Mr. Sekombo again criticized the government of Congo for not only the continuing failure to protect women and young girls from sexual violence, but also for "encouraging conditions that create opportunities for sexual violence to occur". "There is no excuse for missing to pay salaries to soldiers in the lawless eastern Congo for six months" said Sekombo. The MJPC has also renewed its call for the Congolese government to take urgent needed action to end human rights abuses in east Congo, hold perpetrators accountable and ensure reparation for the victims of sexual violence.

The MJPC has been urging the Congolese government to compensate the victims of sexual violence in order to also help combat impunity in eastern part of Congo where sexual violence against women and children has been widely used as weapon of war for more than decade. The MJPC online petition calling for help to put pressure on Congolese Government to compensate victims of sexual siolence in Eastern DRC can be signed at

About MJPC

MJPC works to add a voice in advocating for justice and peace in the DRC particulary in the east of DRC where thousands innocent civilian including children and women continue to suffer massive human rights violations while armed groups responsible for these crimes go unpunished

For more information about the MJPC and its activities, visit or call Makuba Sekombo @ 1-408-8063-644 or e-mail: The online petition calling on the Congolese Government to put urgently in place a comprehensive program of compensation for the victims of sexual violence in eastern Congo can be signed at

kristine said...

That is quite heartbreaking - that they were trying to restore normalcy and celebrate, with this effect.

I went to school with a boy who had been sent out of sarajevo because of the war. I remember he couldnt sleep because it was too quiet at night - he had grown used to the shooting and the bombs. Thats what this reminded me of.

Yves Zihindula said...

I discovered this wonderful blog. it inspires me a lot. I'll send you an email for more details.

Anonymous said...

That was actually the first time a city like Goma was host to the president for a national celebration. My Uncle was a physician in Goma, till right before the arrival of Hutus refugees from neighboring Ruanda. The situation then was peaceful, until the conflict in Ruanda and Burundi spilled into the Congo as the victors followed their defeated cousins. Despite instability in Goma, it is much more properous than many cities in the Congo. At leat it is fortunate to have the likes of you and other folks of good will around it, since much of the Congo, perhaps beside Kinshasa, Lubumbashi and Bukavu are not so fortunate. Unlike eastern Congo, the Western part is calm and people are very friendly. I would also advise you to try to get out of Goma a bit, travel to the town of Butembo, beni and Bukavu ( Sud Kivu Province). Travelling accross the Congo River is an amazing experience. GoCongo organizes such expedition. I love what Americans are doing for the Congoleses, the latest news I've read was about the Mormons church spending 2 millions USD to provide water in the forgotten town of Luputa in East Kasai(population around 200,000). I applaud you for learning Swahili ( lingua franca of much of East Africa),it's an wonderful way to belong in those communities. Are there other English speakers apart from your couple, do you folks meet on a regular basis, do you attempt to provide advise( especially in Public Service) to the authority in order to improve the life of the populace there, and what is your daily life like in Congo?

shona congo said...

Kristine, you are right. It is hearbreaking what we become used to.

"anonymous" how interesting that your uncle was a doctor here. I am sure he has a world of experiences that it would be fascinating to listen to.

You are right that Congo is a very big country, and the East is very different from the West, in fact one town is very different from another. It never ceases to amaze me how many different languages and cultures you can find here.

I have been across the lake to Bukavu. Although the cities are in many ways comparable, they are also very distinct. Bukavu doesn't have quite as massive a presence of aid organizations as Goma has, and I think that creates a different feel. It also has a long-standing colonial infrastructure, although it is obviously in much disrepair. Much of the colonial infrastucture in Goma was destroyed by the volcano, although not all. I like Bukavu for its older, more historic feel.

I wish I could do more traveling outside of Goma, but unfortunately security on the roads is still not good enough. I look forward to having the chance one day though.

In response to your questions...hmmm...That is a lot of questions. I think I will answer them in a separate blog entry. So stay tuned!

pierre Siv said...

My country, my ancestral land, Goma is depicted in my Book " the hurdles of a young doctor in a war torn country" and the book can be found on or amazon.