Tag Archives: Democratic Republic of Congo

Caritas helping those forced to flee in Congo

Photo : Taylor Toeka

Photo : Taylor Toeka

Fighting near Goma, eastern Democratic Republic of Congo’s largest city, has killed at least 20 people since Monday and ended an uneasy six-month calm between the army and fighters from the M23 rebel group.

On the evening of Tuesday, six shells fell on the neighborhood streets Mugunga, seriously injuring six people and damaging three houses. Although the attacks have not only resulted in deaths among the civilian population, they have caused extensive damage and forced people from their homes.

After three days of hostilities, Caritas Goma reported that 4,400 people from Mutaho have fled to seek refuge in the premises of the parish of St. Francis Xavier in Ndosho. Caritas Goma is providing people displaced by the fighting with humanitarian aid.

This week’s fighting was the first since November, when M23 troops routed the army and briefly seized Goma, despite the presence of thousands of U.N. peacekeepers. The U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is currently in the region.

Goma : Après 3 jours des combats

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From child soldier to top student in Congo

Eight year old Germain Muhindo, third from left, sits with two other ex child soldiers at the Caritas centre. Photo Taylor Toeka

Eight year old Germain Muhindo, third from left, sits with two other ex child soldiers at the Caritas centre. Photo Taylor Toeka

By Taylor Toeka, Caritas Goma

Francais

Germain Muhindo comes top of his class almost always, yet a few months ago the eight year old first grader had never even seen a chalkboard. But he had seen war. He was forced into being a child soldier for three months in September 2012 by fighters in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s ravaged east.

“We were working to the fields when we met the rebels,” said Germain. “They ordered my older brother, who is thirteen, to carry their bags. He refused so they hit him and made him do it. As there were only two of us, they made me come along too.”

Half a million people were driven from their homes in North Kivu last year and thousands of children were taken to be used as soldiers, cooks, messengers, porters or the girls as sex slaves by government and rebel forces.

“Every day I thought of my mother,” he said. “I didn’t know how to feed myself. I was very ill.”
Germain was released from his captors to Caritas Goma and is now one of the 32 boys and 6 girls at a centre for former child soldiers run by Caritas in Kanyabayonga. Caritas provides the children with medical and care and counselling, safe place, helps them restart their schooling or gives those beyond school age the skills to find work.

“After reunification with their families, we get them back into school,” said Leontine Munganga, head of Caritas centre. Germaine is special as he is so young and had never been to school before. The Caritas staff are enormously proud of his achievement in doing so well.

It’s takes the children about three months before they can return home. Germain is staying longer because his village is unsafe.

The process is slow as Caritas must prepare the child and the community they are returning to accept them back. Tackling discrimination against the children for the crimes they were forced to commit is important.

The Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in armed conflict forbade the recruitment of children by either governments or rebels. Until now the Congolese army and militias are on a ‘list of shame’ for their use of children in armed conflict.

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Rebel repatriation goes wrong in Congo leading to new crisis

An effort to repatriate Rwanda rebels currently in the Democratic Republic of Congo has ended in violence that’s forced thousands to flee.

250 rebels from Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) plus 500 of their dependents gave themselves up for repatriation to Congolese government troops and local militias in Walungu, South Kivu in eastern Congo on 2 January.

But the plan went wrong and ended in heavy fighting between the Rwandan rebels and the Congolese forces. Further fighting has ensued and the rebels have now escaped into the forest.

Over 5,800 families have been forced to flee because of the fighting. Caritas Bukavu is working in the area to provide emergency food rations for one or two weeks, thanks to funds received from Caritas members.

Read the full story in French

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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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Video: Tensions au début de vote à Kinshasa

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