News / Africa

Uncertainty Takes Toll on Civilians in Eastern DRC

People displaced by recent fighting in eastern Congo wait to receive aid food in Mugunga IDP camp outside of Goma, November 24, 2012.
People displaced by recent fighting in eastern Congo wait to receive aid food in Mugunga IDP camp outside of Goma, November 24, 2012.
Gabe Joselow
The rebellion in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo has displaced tens of thousands of people, many of whom had been uprooted before, sometimes more than once.  As the M23 rebels prepare to withdraw from the city, the impending security vacuum could actually make the situation worse.

Mugunga camp

Thousands gather at the Mugunga camp for displaced people outside of the town of Goma.

Who Are the M23 Rebels?

  • Named for March 23, the date of a 2009 peace deal
  • Contains fighters once loyal to a rebel army who assimilated into the DRC army, then defected
  • Formed in early 2012
  • Dominated by the Tutsi ethnic group
  • Also known as the Congolese Revolutionary Army
  • UN experts say the group is backed by Rwanda, which Rwanda denies
Many have arrived in the past week, having been displaced by fighting in the area between the M23 rebels and Congolese and U.N. forces.  Families sleep on the floors of churches and schools while they wait for a more permanent place to settle.

A 53-year-old father of 11 children, Sirie Nufanjala, is tying plastic sheeting around his home in the camp to keep the rain out.

He came to the camp from Masisi in May, after the rebellion first broke out, but had to relocate again last week when Congolese soldiers retreating from Goma looted the camp and took his belongings.

“Life was hard here before,” he says, “but then later some NGOs came in and started helping us and we started living nicely.  But then the war came and things changed again."

The United Nations refugee agency estimates 140,000 people have been displaced by the recent fighting, joining hundreds of thousands of others previously uprooted.

And now, the people of Goma live in uncertain times, as M23 rebels make moves to withdraw from the city following talks with the government.

Situation could deteriorate

Christina Corbett, with the humanitarian organization Oxfam, says her group is making preparations in case the situation becomes volatile.

"What we can do is be flexible in our programming and make sure that we can get as much as possible done now so that if for any reason for a couple of days we cannot work, at least we will have some resources in place," she said.

Corbett says Oxfam has been providing water and sanitation to camps throughout the region, more or less as normal with the rebels in charge.  But she says there is always the risk of insecurity when power shifts from one group to another.

"When there is any kind of security vacuum, there is always a huge risk that someone is going to take advantage and looting and banditry and general chaos can ensue.  So these are all huge security issues and there are not any easy answers, we can not predict what is going to happen," she said.

The rebels have sent mixed signals on their intent to withdraw from the city.  While M23's military leadership under General Sultani Makenga says fighters have already begun to leave, the political wing says they will not retreat until the government meets their demands.

  • Congolese policeman in riot gear keeps an eye on Goma residents, including street children, who gathered for an anti-Kabila demonstration supported by the M23 rebel movement in Goma, DRC, November 28, 2012.
  • Congolese policeman in riot gear keeps an eye on Goma residents, including street children, who gathered for an anti-Kabila demonstration supported by the M23 rebel movement in Goma, DRC, November 28, 2012.
  • Protesters in Goma, DRC, Nov. 28, 2012 (VOA Photo / Primo-Pascal Rydahigwa)
  • Goma residents, including street children, gather for an anti-Kabila demonstration supported by the M23 rebel movement in Goma, DRC, November 28, 2012.
  • Protesters in Goma, DRC, Nov. 28, 2012 (VOA Photo / Primo-Pascal Rydahigwa)
  • A column of Congolese M23 rebels motion to the photographer not to take pictures on the Goma to Rushuru road, north of Goma, November 27, 2012.
  • Congolese M23 rebel fighters detain a man they suspect to be an FDLR (Force Democratique de Liberation du Rwanda) rebel returning from an incursion into Rwanda Near Kibumba, north of Goma Nov. 27, 2012.
  • A column of Congolese M23 rebels on the Goma to Rushuru road, north of Goma, DRC, November 27, 2012.
  • A Congolese boy walks towards Kibati, north of Goma, DRC, after being told to do so for his safety by M23 rebel fighters, November 27, 2012.
  • A boy carries a goat along a road near the town of Sake, about 27 kilometers west of Goma, DRC, November 27, 2012.
  • The South Africa contingent of the U.N. peacekeepers in Congo erect a razor wire barrier around Goma airport, DRC, November 26, 2012.
  • A woman carries her child in Minova, 45 kilometers west of Goma, DRC, November 26, 2012.

You May Like

How to Safeguard Your Mobile Privacy

As the digital world becomes more mobile, so too do concerns about eroding privacy and increased hacking More

'Desert Dancer' Chronicles Iranian Underground Dance Troupe

Film by Richard Raymond is based on true story of Afshin Ghaffarian and his friends More

Researcher: Obesity Poses Complex Problem

Professor at Symposium on Obesity, Diabetes and Metabolic Syndrome says problem involves more than calorie intake, warns of worldwide health impact More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thoughti
X
George Putic
May 26, 2015 9:26 PM
Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Scientists Say Plankton More Important Than Previously Thought

Tiny ocean creatures called plankton are mostly thought of as food for whales and other large marine animals, but a four-year global study discovered, among other things, that plankton are a major source of oxygen on our planet. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Kenyans Lament Losing Sons to al-Shabab

There is agony, fear and lost hope in the Kenyan town of Isiolo, a key target of a new al-Shabab recruitment drive. VOA's Mohammed Yusuf visits Isiolo to speak with families and at least one man who says he was a recruiter.
Video

Video US-led Coalition Gives Some Weapons to Iraqi Troops

In a video released Tuesday from the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, Iraqi forces and U.S.-led coalition troops survey a cache of weapons supplied to help Iraq liberate Mosul from Islamic State group. According to a statement provided with the video, the ministry and the U.S.-led coaltion troops have started ''supplying the 16th army division with medium and light weapons in preparation to liberate Mosul and nearby areas from Da'esh (Arabic acronym for Islamic State group).''
Video

Video Amnesty International: 'Overwhelming Evidence' of War Crimes in Ukraine

Human rights group Amnesty International says there is overwhelming evidence of ongoing war crimes in Ukraine, despite a tentative cease-fire with pro-Russian rebels. Researchers interviewed more than 30 prisoners from both sides of the conflict and all but one said they were tortured. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Washington Parade Honors Those Killed Serving in US Military

Every year, on the last Monday in the month of May, millions of Americans honor the memories of those killed while serving in the armed forces. Memorial Day is a tradition that dates back to the 19th Century. While many people celebrate the federal holiday with a barbecue and a day off from work, for those who’ve served in the military, it’s a special day to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice. Arash Arabasadi reports for VOA from Washington.
Video

Video Kenya’s Capital Sees Rise in Shisha Parlors

In Kenya, the smoking of shisha, a type of flavored tobacco, is the latest craze. Patrons are flocking to shisha parlors to smoke and socialize. But the practice can be addictive and harmful, though many dabblers may not realize the dangers, according to a new review. Lenny Ruvaga has more on the story for VOA from Nairobi, Kenya.
Video

Video Rolling Thunder Run Reveals Changed Attitudes Towards Vietnam War

For many US war veterans, the Memorial Day holiday is an opportunity to look back at a divisive conflict in the nation’s history and to remember those who did not make it home.
Video

Video Female American Soldiers: Healing Through Filmmaking

According to the United States Defense Department, there are more than 200-thousand women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.  Like their male counterparts, females have experiences that can be very traumatic.  VOA's Bernard Shusman tells us about a program that is helping some American women in the military heal through filmmaking.
Video

Video Iowa Family's Sacrifice Shaped US Military Service for Generations

Few places in America have experienced war like Waterloo. This small town in the Midwest state of Iowa became famous during World War II not for what it accomplished, but what it lost. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the legacy of one family’s sacrifice is still a reminder today of the real cost of war for all families on the homefront.
Video

Video On Film: How Dance Defies Iran's Political Oppression

'Desert Dancer' by filmmaker Richard Raymond is based on the true story of a group of young Iranians, who form an underground dance troupe in the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is the latest in a genre of films that focus on dance as a form of freedom of expression against political oppression and social injustice. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.
Video

Video Turkey's Ruling Party Trying to Lure Voters in Opposition Stronghold

Turkey’s AK (Justice and Development) Party is seeking a fourth successive general election victory, with the goal of securing two-thirds of the seats in Parliament to rewrite the constitution and change the country's parliamentary system into a presidential one. To achieve that, the party will need to win seats in opposition strongholds like the western city of Izmir. Dorian Jones reports.
Video

Video Millions Flock to Ethiopia Polls

Millions of Ethiopians cast their votes Sunday in the first national election since the 2012 death of longtime leader Meles Zenawi. Mr. Meles' party, the Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front, is almost certain of victory again. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Addis Ababa.

VOA Blogs