News from the Eastern DRC
It has now been exactly four months since my arrival in Goma, Eastern DRC, in November as a Child Protection Trainee during the early stage of the emergency response launched by Save the Children.
The security situation has improved in North Kivu Province over the past two months but it remains highly volatile and there is a lot of uncertainty about the political future.
The main rebel group, the CNDP (National Congress for the Defence of the People), along with local armed groups called the “Mai-Mai” and “Pareco” have laid down the arms in January and most of them are now in the process of being integrated into the Congolese Armed Forces (FARDC). So the same soldiers that everyone feared so much just a few weeks ago are now at the table next to you at the restaurants in Goma, the main town in eastern DRC. The charismatic leader of CNDP, Laurent Nkunda, has been arrested in Rwanda last month. The news was met with joy around here and you could see displaced people in camps chanting “Peace! Peace”, thinking that this meant the end of the fighting in North Kivu (we certainly wish it was that simple). As for Nkunda, he is in Rwandan custody and it is unclear if they will hand him over to the Congolese authorities or send him to another country and tell him to get lost. We might not have seen the end of CNDP yet though as it is rumoured that some of them have no intention to be integrated within the Congolese armed forces.
The Rwandan and Congolese army conducted a joint military operation to get rid of the other major rebel group, the FDLR (Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda). It has not been a success so far. Most Rwandan troops have left last week, as previously agreed, leaving the Congolese Army to conduct the operations on its own. The FDLR has already targeted villagers in retaliation for these operations and more casualties and displacements are expected as a result.
So despite some very positive recent developments that I doubt anyone could have expected, the war here is far from being over. According to UN figures, it has already claimed more than 5.4 million lives since 1997, making it the deadliest conflict since World War II. Yet apart from a couple of headlines back in November 2008, it still doesn’t seem to draw any attention and interest from most of the media, and from the rest of the world in general.