Desperate times for Congo’s homeless

Running away
Furaha Nijonzima, aged 31 years

Furaha Nijonzima

Furaha Nijonzima. Copyright: Cafod/Bridget Burrows.

I arrived here on 4th November. I came from Mushaki village.

I was running away from the war of Laurent Nkunda. I left because the CNDP rebels had started coming in and raping women and recruiting young boys. We thought we’d be safer away, but I was hit by the CNDP.

I’d lived in Mushaki for 10 years. This is the second time I’ve had to flee, I’m actually from Rubaye.

I’m very uncomfortable and worried here, because I’ve got 4 children, and since I left we haven’t had food, and we’re sleeping together here with 14 other families that have recently arrived at the camp.

If things get better I’d like to go back home. But only if peace comes… and as long as the CNDP aren’t there. If I could talk to the rebels I would say to the CNDP and armed groups that I’d like to go home, and please find a solution.

There are 26,000 people in Mugunga camp where Furaha has run to. More are arriving. Mushaki is 50km to the west of Goma. Furaha, her name, means Happy.

Caritas aid reaching those most in need in Congo
By Bridget Burrows, Cafod

26th November 2008

A cheer of delight went up around the crowd; the first overladen truck of desperately needed humanitarian assistance had just rumbled into the rural village of Ntamugenga, 10km from the town of Rutshuru.

The territory around this small village was rocked by some of the heaviest armed activity during the recent flash of conflict in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo earlier this month.

Hundreds of thousands of people fled for a second time, from camps that they were already sheltering in. Some ended up in rural areas, sheltering with strangers in villages.

Isolated for many weeks, they have had no help, and the situation has become desperate. “Since the last of the food I had was finished, we have collected grass to eat. Can you imagine, one month living on grass?” Mazirane Nzahera tells me, tutting and shaking her head sadly.

“Bombs were falling on the camp, too many people died, including three of my neighbours. I left with nothing but the clothes you see me wearing.”

On Monday, the first humanitarian assistance from Caritas finally reached Mazirane and 12,000 others like her, taking clothes, blankets, cooking pots, soap, and watercans to people in desperate need.

The Catholic Bishop of Goma, Faustin Ngabu was the first to hand over a blanket to an elderly lady at the front of the long queue.

Holding a megaphone, he addressed the massing crowd, saying humbly, “I know what Caritas have brought today will not remove all of your suffering, but we hope it will alleviate some of it.”

Bishop Ngabu, Bishop of Goma for over thirty-five years, has seen all of the long conflict that has afflicted the population in his care, but he says, “Caritas Goma has confronted difficult situations, but unlike others, the Church cannot leave the people.”

Michel Monginda, a Caritas aid worker, said, Although the situation is currently calmer and we have been able to deliver humanitarian aid to these people today, thousands of people in remote areas still have not been reached and need our help.”

For Mazirane, the future is uncertain, “I’m very afraid, I have nothing to eat in my village, and I don’t know if we will continue to get humanitarian assistance. Our trust is in God.”

By Bridget Burrows, Cafod
20 November 2008

Covered in flour up to his elbows, Jimmy tries in vain to wipe some of the white dust off his black face, before laughing and greeting me.

Jimmy Luputu is working for Caritas Goma. He is shouting out orders to a long queue, and pouring out heavy sacks of flour into the waiting hands of the hungry people in front of him.

Tens of thousands of people are still sheltering in camps, or are forced to hide in the forest because of continued fighting between armed groups in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Made to abandon their homes, many have moved numerous times, trying to find safety and thus avoid being caught in the crossfire between fighting factions.

Caritas Internationalis members are supporting Caritas Goma with emergency survival kits such as blankets, cooking pots and soap – reaching people in remote areas that have received no humanitarian assistance yet.

In the Mugunga camp, 20 minutes outside Goma, food and shelter are provided. But away from their farms, the people here are stuck in limbo, unable to work and feed themselves.

The recent escalation of conflict in the east of the country is prolonging their suffering.

As long as armed groups in the region continue to vie for position, these people can’t return home and get on with their lives.

As the population continues to be terrorised, one wonders why the armed groups can’t put down their guns and let the people live in peace.

With each armed faction having its own interests for living its life by the gun, it becomes easier for the next group to want to achieve its goals by picking up a gun too.

Attempts at ceasefires and disarmaments have been negotiated – even as recently as the beginning of this year – but, so far, each one has ended in failure.

In the meantime, people such as Jimmy will keep helping to protect the affected population.

The crowd of displaced people in front of him queues patiently, not even moving an inch when it begins to rain heavily.

Jimmy continues his operation despite the soaking. The water runs down his face and washes away the flour.

1 Comment

Filed under Africa, Conflicts and Disasters, Congo, Democratic Republic of, Emergencies, Peacebuilding

One response to “Desperate times for Congo’s homeless

  1. caritasinternationalis

    What moving stories from DRC. God bless your work

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