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The Congo: daily life in level 3 security

What’s it like living here in the Democratic Republic of Congo on a daily basis, a few people have asked me recently. Goma, a city located in the east of the country, as I’ve said, is beautiful. The weather is like a perfect summers day in England, although its starting to gear up for an afternoon thunderstorm.

But around the town, and sometimes within it, you have a nightmare unfolding. For example:

4 May: A moto-taxi driver was injured when he was shot by bandits who stole his motorcycle.

6 May: A Land Cruiser was hijacked in a restaurant compound. Police have been informed of the incident.

Both of these happened in Goma, and last week wasn’t exceptional. Each week we produce a security report listing the incidents in the areas of the country where Save the Children works. The report goes on for seven pages. Every week.

I’ve taken these two incidents from it, and they’re part of the reason that the security situation here is classed as level 3, with the potential to quickly go to level 5 (the highest security level).

But the paradox is that it feels very friendly. You want to hop out the car and waltz around chatting.

But some areas of the city are safer than others. You stay in those. You have a guesthouse you share with your colleagues. You all get driven to work in the morning, and invite friends from other organisations around in the evening. There are some nice cafes and restaurants in Goma — about ten in total. You go to those. You are far more punctual than Cinderella — you’re always, always, home before midnight.

You prepare a bit as well. You always have your passport with you. You have the security company phone numbers in your mobile phone. You carry the things you’d need if you were evacuated suddenly: I’ve got anti-malarials, water purifiers and antiseptic handwash in my handbag. And some perfume 🙂

So it’s very strange living here. There’s good food, friendly people and French lessons to enjoy, but they co-exist alongside violence, and it’s dangerous when you forget that.

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