AFRICA GREAT LAKES UPDATE: December 2008

 

CPTnet

10 January 2008

AFRICA GREAT LAKES UPDATE: December 2008

 

Team members for this period were Cliff Kindy, Rosemarie Milazzo, Wendy Lehman, and Jane MacKay Wright.

 

SUMMARY

The team traveled to Goma, the capital of North Kivu province in the eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), via Kigali, Rwanda.  Team members found housing in Goma, set up telephones and email, acquainted themselves with the city, and connected with their sponsoring organization Groupe Martin Luther King.  The team lives in the compound of Salesian Fathers, located across from the Goma airport, down the road from the UN forces in the DRC (MONUC), and not far from one of the region's largest mineral trading companies.

Team members worked on developing relationships with local human rights organizations, and church officials. The team also began research into the relationship between mineral exploitation and the violence in the eastern Congo which has killed and injured so many Congolese, resulted in major social disruption, and caused hundreds of thousands to flee their homes for safety.

A first challenge was responding to requests by both Groupe Martin Luther King, and the Evangelical Friends Church's peace center to give workshops in nonviolence techniques. The team is carefully considering how Christian Peacemaker Teams' (CPT) activist approach can be presented in these settings.

 

5-10 December 2008

The team settled into their Goma housing and had initial meetings with their sponsoring partner, Groupe Martin Luther King.  They also met with a representative of the coalition Synergie des Femmes pour les Victimes des Violences Sexuelles (SFVS).

 

11-17 December 2008

The team held meetings with Groupe Martin Luther King, Jeremy Nzabanita of Ebenezer Peace Centre, Pax Christi, Vicar-General of Goma, and Mining Processing Congo (MPC).

 

 18-19 December 2008:

The team visited Goma's Don Bosco's Ngangi school, orphanage, cholera hospital, and camp for 4,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs).  Many families were living on the dirt floor of a large school assembly building.  Cooks working in the school's huge kitchen were providing meals for these IDPs, but their food supplies had run very low.

The team also attended the meeting of United Nations OCHA (human rights NGO coordinating agency), and met with representatives of Human Rights Watch and Pole Institute. They continued research on mineral exploitation in DRC, which is supporting the region's violent conflicts.

 

20-21 December 2008:

The team took a road trip to Minova with Christophe Mutaka and Zawadi of Groupe Martin Luther King. They traveled through checkpoints and came close to the rebel front line near Sake.  Their drive took them along Lake Kivu through Kiroche, Shasha, and Eweramana.  They stayed at the Bobadana parish in Minova, which also accommodates an IDP camp.  Informal IDP camps lie all along the mountain ridges above the road to Minova.  Nkunda's rebel troops are on the ridges beyond this.  Congolese government soldiers are stationed sporadically throughout the area.

While the team was walking in Minova a woman, who appeared to be an outcast in the community, took hold of Cliff and Wendy's arms, and moved along with them. At one point, she said, "You have full stomachs, but I have had nothing to eat.  Please give me something."

On 21 December the team visited Kashenda village and spoke to villagers about possible accompaniment.  They also spoke to villagers at Kihinda IDP camp in Shasha, and to families hosting IDPs in Erewamana.  Host families in North Kivu live in strained conditions but receive no assistance.  A villager told the team, "We don't need more help as aid.  We only need peace.  Then we can take care of ourselves." A disabled man sitting under a tree along the road told Milazzo that he had run from militias through the bush for a week, and survived because Good Samaritans fed him. The team also visited with human rights activist Krusum Muhongo in Sake.  Muhongo and her colleagues monitor and advocate for human rights in the rebel-held Masisi region, with a special focus on endangered and abused women.

 

 22-24 December 2008

The team met with Justine Masika Bihamba of the Synergie coalition (SFVS), whom Milazzo had met when she gave a talk in Kingston, Ontario.  The team learned of three Congolese army commanders who have grown rich on mineral exploitation in Walikale.  The government of the Netherlands has just awarded Bihamba the Human Rights Defenders Tulip award.  Team members also met with Prosper Hamuli of the Pole Institute, Daniel Kitzi, the vicar-general of Goma diocese, Bishop Fousta Ngabu of Goma, and Groupe Martin Luther King members Christophe Mutaka and Charles Nyembo Salisko.

 

25 December 2008

The team enjoyed a festive and sociable evening meal with the Salesian fathers.

 

 26-31 December 2008

Christophe Mutaka arranged to have team members meet with Jean-Bosco Semasaka Mutabazi, vice-mayor of Goma.  The vice-mayor asked the team to lobby their governments to tell Rwanda to stop the war in his country. He emphasized that the DRC has an elected government and that other countries should stop supporting armed rebels that are causing the humanitarian catastrophe in the eastern Congo.

At the invitation of Pastor Levi Munyemana of Friends Evangelical Church, the team attended a mediation workshop at the Ebenezer Peace Centre.  Wright and Kindy met with a Goma lawyer who is the legal advisor for Pax Christi.