Friday, October 5, 2012

DR Congo, NZ -- Goma, Auckland just 6 degrees of separation.

Eastern Congo city suffers upsurge in violence

GOMA, Congo — Six people were killed this week in shootouts linked to the Congolese army in Goma, eastern Congo, say local authorities.

They say that there is 6 degrees of separation between all of us. I am inclined some days to believe it. In other words I will know someone who knows someone and after six such someone's we will have a connection.
"There are a lot soldiers in the area at the moment and it is creating problems," said Naasson Kubuya Ndoole, Goma's mayor. "We have to manage them."

I doubted  very much this was the work of Congolese soldiers. I was quite prepared to believe it was the handy work of one of the myriad of rebel militias, foreign backed insurectionaries or even just common criminals.

Since the beginning of May, the Congolese army has been fighting a new group of rebels called M23 in the Rutshuru territory, north of Goma. The M23 are largely Congolese Tutsi who defected from the army and are now fighting against both the army and Rwandan Hutu rebels for control of the mineral-rich eastern part of Congo.
Congo President Joseph Kabila has sent thousands of troops to reinforce the Congolese army forces fighting the M23 rebels.
But in July, the rebels gained ground and the Congolese army's lines were pushed back to Kibumba, 30 kilometers (18 miles) away from Goma, the provincial capital.
Despite all the troops deployed around Goma, insecurity has increased. Many blame the undisciplined Congo army troops.
"Every night since the end of July we hear gunfire in this quarter of town", says Passy Nabintu who lives in Virunga, a neighborhood in northern Goma.

Certainly insecurity has increased, but I knew of one of these murders a week ago as I write at the moment. One of the people murdered was the actual brother of a man I consider to be a brother. My friend Sawa Ntamwenge's brother, Chika Ntamwenge was killed no  murdered let's call this for what it is.
In the past week several people were killed, spreading fear throughout the city.

I spent last Friday ( Sept 28 ) with Sawa his family and my Congolese family. We were angry, a man was dead, he left a wife and young family. He died coming home from work but not at the hands of the army but rather at the hands of a criminal. Certainly that criminal was able to take advantage of the increased insecurity.
Local authorities have instructed people to stay home after dark and the usually lively streets of Goma have become eerily quiet after 7 p.m.
The most recent killing was Friday night at about 10 p.m. near Goma's border with Rwanda, according to police.
On Monday, a shootout killed three people including a captain of the presidential guard, an elite unit of the Congolese army reputed for its ruthlessness.
The following day, other soldiers from the presidential guard started shooting in the air at night to show their anger at their comrade's death, terrorizing residents of several quarters.
"We don't dare go out at night anymore," says Faïda Kakule, a shopkeeper in the Mabanga quarter.
The Congolese army spokesperson, colonel Oliver Hamuli, says two presidential guards have been arrested in relation to the incident. According to him, soldiers are not responsible for the rising insecurity.
"It is only an upsurge in ordinary crime," he asserted. "The police must move to arrest the criminals and reestablish order."

The police have done something, tonight Friday October 5th, I again visited Sawa to talk to him about this blog. I needed his permission to write this, tonight he told me that an arrest has been made for the murder of his brother. 
Rumors have been circulating in Goma that the increasing number of attacks is part of a campaign by the M23 to destabilize Goma and the army's hold on the key city. But local authorities say it has nothing to with the rebellion.
"It is an internal problem. It has nothing to do with the M23", said Goma's mayor Naasson Kubuya Ndoole.

Goma's mayor is almost right. It has nothing and everything to do with the rebellion, the rebellion provides the environment.
On Thursday, two other people were shot to death. One man died after he was hit by seven bullets because he refused to give his mobile phone to unknown armed men. After murdering him, his assailants left his body lying on the street without taking his phone, said residents.

This fits with the early reports we recieved about Chika's death. The timing fits as well.

As I said 6 degrees of separation, in New Zealand it is more like 2 degrees. I will never meet my friend Chika Ntamwenge. Nor will I ever forget him. Congo your sons and daughters deserve better, Joseph Kabila you and your government are responsible.

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