Tuesday, May 27, 2014

DR Congo: Goma, " Three boats down from the candy, vacant deck chairs on a floodlit beach "

France 24 reports.

Goma residents up in arms about ‘privatised’ access to lake

Residents of Goma collect water from Lake Kivu. On the left, walls have severely restricted access to the water. Screen shot of a video below

Lake Kivu is known as a haven for residents of Goma. Some go there for a swim; others earn money by doing odd jobs there. However, a recent decision by the government to grant plots of land to deserving soldiers has greatly reduced access to the site.

Deserving soldiers ? This decision has the stench of corruption. It would be interesting to compare the list of soldiers receiving water front properties with their service records.  
 
At 2,700 square kilometres, Lake Kivu, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is one of the largest lakes in Africa. Goma residents go there regularly to do daily tasks: collect water and clean dishes, for example. However, over the years, access has been gradually restricted as hotels and homes were built along the shore, particularly in the rich Volcans neighbourhood between Goma’s city centre and the lake.

You have to feel for the local residents. Not so long ago, November 2012 Goma fell to the M23 rebels.  That came about as a result of what only can be described as one of the most cowardly displays by any national army I am aware of. The situation was made far worse by the behaviour of the retreating FARDC forces. 

" I can't believe I am reading this bullshit. FARDC never fucking fought, they ran away. They looted Goma for three days until the M23 rebels started to arrive then  and only then did they piss off south to Minova to indulge in yet more theft and of course rape."

                              Several hotel complexes and luxury homes have been built along the shores of Lake Kivu.

Our Observers say that only around a hundred metres, comprised of five plots of land belonging to the provincial council, were still accessible in this area. But in November 2013, a North Kivu government decree granted the remaining plots to DR Congo army personnel (the FARDC) as a way to thank them for their efforts during the war against the M23 rebels, which the army had won a few days earlier.

There is of course the slight problem that it was not just a FARDC victory and can be attributed also to the UN MONUSCO force and more specifically the Intervention ( Africa ) Brigade. What really stinks is that the UN mandate requires FARDC along with the UN forces to clean up a few more problems such as the Ugandan ADF rebels and the genocidal FDLR not to mention the Mai Mai. Hardly a job done situation and time to hand out the medals or in this case water front properties.

                     The red circle is the place in the Volcans neighbourhood where the plots of land have been given away.

Micheline Mwendike lives in Goma, where she works for humanitarian organisations. She is a member of LUCHA, a non-political youth movement.


                                                                                               Micheline Mwendike

Since January, we’ve seen fences being built where people used to walk through to go swimming during the weekend. This wasn’t very problematic, as we could still go through. However, it started to become a real problem a few weeks ago when the military started to ban all passage, and threatened anyone who protested against the construction work. [Two journalists in Goma contacted by FRANCE 24 say they had been attacked by men guarding the construction sites they were filming].

For a while it seemed as though FARDC was actually becoming a credible national army, rather than a bunch of parasitic rapists.

Of course, the problems of the Congolese army are far from over. As argued here before, the real challenge of army reform lies in tackling the culture of patronage, racketeering and impunity that undermines military discipline and any sense of hierarchy in the armed forces."

A rather spectacular return to form.

                                                Construction has already begun. Photo by Magloire Paluku.

This was the only place we could still pass through. From a touristic point of view, it’s a catastrophe, because access to the lake is now totally privatised. But the greater problem is that the decision affects the most disadvantaged: a lot of young unemployed people use lake water to wash the cars or motorbikes of more well-off people, particularly those from the Volcans neighbourhood.

I would have said sanity but it is a minor point

" There is a saying in these parts: "Where logic ends, Congo begins."

These plots also gave people access to the lake during frequent water cuts [since the 2002 eruption of the Nyiragongo volcano, the water distribution network has been severely damaged by the lava, and has not returned to normal function]. A lot of people from the Birere neighbourhood [a very poor area of Goma] went there to collect water during the cuts. Now, the closest access point is four kilometres away, near the port of Goma. It’s revolting that political decisions have been made without considering the consequences.

I am sure the consequences were well considered, the corrupt bastards just didn't give a shit about the people of Goma.

After a call by civil society organisations in Goma, North Kivu politicians went down to the site on May 13 to see the blocked access to Lake Kivu. They are due to deliver a report soon.

                                                    North Kivu lawmakers on a fact-finding mission on May 13.

The governor of North Kivu, Julien Paluku, who signed the governmental decree, explained:

I signed the decree to compensate the soldiers and military officers who acted flawlessly during the war against the M23. This is not a public beach, because these were plots belonging to the North Kivu government, which has the right to decide what should be done with it. They were given away transparently and legally.

As I said above I would like to see lists of active front line personnel and compare that to the recipients of such munificence.  Goma is a very hard place to live, access to water is considered in most of the world a basic human right.

" Or, as Oxfam’s Reible put it, while aid workers “are paid well and can pay high rents, the poor are affected because they don’t have the money to cope with an increasing cost of life.”

“Housing has become very expensive because NGO staff pay high rents for decent housing, and the landlords know this. Some have removed people from their houses because they want to refurbish them to give out to those who can pay good money,” Jeanne, a local resident, told IRIN."

The governor Julien Paluku it would seem has decided that the Gomatricians need for water is of far less consequence than making friends and obtaining influence from the military.


I invite people who want to take advantage of Lake Kivu to go to the official beaches located around the port or near the governor’s residence [Editor’s note: about four kilometres away from the Volcans neighbourhood].

I would invite some top notch auditors to investigate. 

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