Category Archives: Emergencies in Congo

Goma diary

This morning Caritas Goma Director Fr. Oswald Musoni gave us his reflections on the situation following the fall of the city to M23 rebels on 20 November.

“The bombs and bullets were terrifying.  I’m finally feeling better after three days and am back and at work,” he said. “Yesterday it was difficult to get around, but this morning the shops are open and the city has come back to life. The Caritas team headed out into the field trying to collect information on the number of people affected by the crisis. The situation is very fluid so we’re still being cautious.” Continue reading

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International aid on its way to Goma in Congo

Cordaid emergency kits will leave for Goma tomorrow. Cordaid is working with Caritas partners on the ground following the latest violence in Congo.

Tomorrow, Friday 23 November, the first trucks with Cordaid (Caritas Netherlands) emergency kits will leave for Goma.

It is one of the first international aid convoys to the eastern Congolese city that was taken by rebel movement M23 on Tuesday. More than 10,000 people have fled. Paul Borsboom, emergency aid coordinator: “The situation is serious. People have fled their homes and are in urgent need of shelter, clean water, blankets, food and safe refuge.” Continue reading

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Congolese rebels take Goma as people flee

Caritas Goma has been providing food and other aid to relief camps. Operations are on stand by for the moment. Credit. Caritas Goma.

“There is still crackling fire this morning,” says Caritas Goma Head of Emergencies Eddy Yamwenziyo. “But it’s very sporadic and is just shooting in the air.”

Congolese ‘M23’ rebels entered Goma this morning according to Radio Okapi. Goma is a city of about a million people in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo on the border with Rwanda.

“There is no electricity,” says Taylor Kakala, Caritas Goma’s Communication officer, speaking to us as the batteries run down on his cell phone. “I do not know how long my cell phone will last and when I can recharge it.” Continue reading

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Anxiety in Goma

Thousands of people have been dispalced by the fighting in North Kivu in the east of Congo. Credit: Caritas Congo

Conflict in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo is getting worse. Rebels called the ‘M23’ are only a couple of kilometers from the main regional city of Goma. Any attack would create a largescale humanitarian emergency as Goma has around one million residents. A Caritas staff member Eddy Yamwenzyio spoke to Valerie Kaye earlier by phone from Goma.

At 0800 this morning, says Caritas Goma emergency officer Eddy Yamwenzyio , the Mayor Mr. Kubuya announced on the radio that the schools will be closed and children should stay at home.

Meanwhile, the M23 rebels said that if the government failed to hold negotiations and withdraw troops from Goma then their military campaign would continue.

Eddy Yamwenzyio says that during the course of the morning “the government forces were clearly taking their position in town and they were visible in every roundabout in the city. By 14:00 the shooting began, and everybody who was out started to run for shelter. Tanks were shooting in the direction of the airport were the M23 rebels have taken position just 3 km out of the airport near Munigi”.

As far as he was aware no public declaration were made regarding a possible failure of negotiations between the M23and the government.

“Only rumor circulated that the negotiations had failed,” he said. “I have not heard anything official so far. But the situation has kept deteriorating especially since last week when the border post with Uganda at Bunagana was closed. This triggered a renewal of the fighting.

“I’m not sure what tomorrow will hold, we are all anxious here”.

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Peacebuilding in Eastern Congo

En français:E x-combattants

A former militia member who is now working as a trader thanks to support from his community and Caritas Goma. Credit: Caritas Goma]

The situation in the eastern Congo province of North Kivu continues to deteriorate since conflict resumed in March after hundreds of former rebels defected from the army to join a renegade general.
Keeping ex-rebels from returning to the bush is difficult. Poverty, lack of opportunities and lack of acceptance within their communities for their past lives, can lead the former fighters to pick up the gun once more.

Caritas Goma is the diocesan Caritas operating in the area. Part of its peacebuilding programme aims to give the ex-combatants a future . Caritas works with the local villagers and the former fighters to create employment opportunities for the latter and improve relations between the two groups.

Caritas organises the former fighters into groups of three plus one member of the community. Together they build small community projects. They also receive specialist training. The jobs range from motorcycle taxis to farming, working in mills to hairdressing, plumbing to catering and so on. Some have a wider impact, such as reforestation work which improves the environment.

The work improves the living conditions of the former soldiers and their families as well as bringing them a greater stability. By involving locals, the programmes has helped create greater harmony. Jules was once a rebel fighter who is now a trader. “I no longer use a weapon to terrorise the people,” he said.

Some 260 ex-combatants and 110 members of their host communities were involved in the UNDP funded programme between September 2010 and march 2011 in Rutshuru and Masisi.

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Caritas food aid gets though in eastern Congo

First food aid in weeks arrives in Minova in eastern Congo as Caritas manages to reach people affected by ongoing conflict. Photo by Taylor Toeka/Caritas Goma

Despite fighting in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s North Kivu between the government army and rebels, Caritas has been able to get food aid through to people in desperate need.

Caritas Goma, the local diocesan arm of Caritas Congo, has provided food in Minova, Kalungu, Ntamugenga and Kitshanga to 37,000 people forced from their homes. No international relief had reached these areas since the outbreak of a two-month-old revolt in eastern Congo by the rebels who call themselves M23.

The aid delivery began at the weekend in Minova with the support of CAFOD (Caritas England and Wales), Trócaire (Caritas Ireland), Secours Catholique (Caritas France) and Caritas Belgium. Caritas is trying to reach first pregnant women, new mothers and children under five with beans, maize flour, vegetable oil and salt to help supplement their diet.

The latest fighting has forced more than 100,000 people from their homes. The spark for the current fighting appears to have been government moves to arrest an ex-militia leader, Bosco Ntaganda, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for war crimes.

The conflict risks undermining a shaky peace in eastern Congo since accords were signed in 2009 between the government and several rebel forces. Church leaders in eastern Congo say that without international attention the region could once again see full blown war. The Bishops of the Episcopal Provincial Assembly of Bukavu (ASSEPB) said in a statement 31 May that unless the underlying causes are addressed – poverty, lack of security, policing and security, the unresolved status of refugees from the 1994 Rwandan genocide – then the region will always be unstable.

Caritas has launched an international emergency appeal to help people forced from their homes by the conflict in North Kivu. The emergency programme will help over 10,000 families with food and other aid.

En français
Nord-Kivu : le Réseau Caritas au chevet de nouveaux déplacés de guerre Continue reading

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Recruitment of child soldiers returns to Congo

Children as young as this are being targeted on their way to school by armed gangs in Eastern Congo and to be used as child soldiers. Photo by Ryan Worms/Caritas 2011.

All week they come. The children arrive at the centre tired and breathless. They say they’ve been seized by fighters who want to use them as child soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s renewed wars.

“We were captured on the hill overlooking our school,” says one child, who has just arrived at a transit centre for former child soldiers in Masisi run by Caritas Goma in Eastern Congo.

The child says his classmates were taken on their way to school by the Mai-Mai, one of the militias active in the fighting that has returned to Congo. “They forced us to follow them,” he said. “They told us that we had to defend our homeland against the aggressors.”

The ones that come are between 10 and 17 years old. They say that since fighting started again between the government and rebels on 29 April various militias have been ‘recruiting’ children to fight.

Caritas Goma runs workshops with the military to discourage the use of child soldiers. Photo by Taylor Kakala/Caritas Congo

These include homegrown militias such as ‘Congo Libre et Souverain’ (APCLS), the Mai-Mai and the ‘Patriotes Resistants Congolais’ (PARECO) and foreigners like the FDLR (Democratic Liberation Forces of Rwanda).

At the Caritas centre in Masisi, Caritas Goma has registered 37 new cases. It now looks after 96 former child soldiers there now. A Caritas centre in Kanyabayonga, records the arrival of 16 new children, bringing its caseload to 39, and in Nyanzale there are 9 new and 35 in total cases of child soldiers. In Nyakariba centre, two more children have joined the 34 former child soldiers Caritas helps.

The demobilization centres run by Caritas receives the former child soldiers and counsels, feeds and educates them. Caritas also helps them find their families. Thanks to professional help, the children rediscover normal everyday life without war. They are prepared to return to their families or find work.

Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch says the warlord Jean Bosco Ntaganda has recruited 149 boys and young men between the age of 12 and 20 in North Kivu. At least 48 of those recruited were under 18 years old and of these, 17 were aged 15 or younger.

The International Criminal Court classes the recruitment of children under 15 a war crime.

Clashes erupted after Congolese President Joseph Kabila announced last month he would try to arrest Ntaganda, who is wanted by the ICC for recruiting child soldiers in the past.

Caritas has launched an international emergency appeal to help people forced from their homes by the conflict in North Kivu. The emergency programme will help over 10,000 families with food and other aid.

Source: Caritas Goma

En francais

Nord-Kivu: Caritas Goma enregistre de nouveaux cas d’enfants sortis des groupes armés
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