Goma, august 2013


Sunday august 25, 2013

Rumours …..

Talked with several people these last days who are pointing towards president Kabila. According to their assessment, he's the head of M23 AND of FARDC. 'Why do you think FARDC has not yet conquered M23? It's because Kabila profits from this chaos. Not only does he profits from all the minerals, he also hopes to use the rebels and the chaos to get another term as president. And if that won't work because of the constitution, he hopes to get one of his friends in. All the signs are pointing that way. Look at the material of the FARDC. it's a mess. Look at the way they fight. Every time they win, they stop fighting. Nothing has changed since CNDP was active in the region. In those days CNDP controlled the Congolese army. Now M23 controls the army.Did you know 99 percent of the commanders in the army are rwandophone? You can write its down. but please, do not give my name.'

There are a million rumors and conspiracy theories flying round in Goma these days. But it's true: FARDC material is in deplorable condition. Someone at UN said he felt pity for the soldiers. 'Look at that tank. Do you see, they can't even get inside. They have to stay outside the tank and even sleep on the tank.' Others are telling the contrary. Because of change in command and wages paid through the bank, soldiers are in better condition and have better morale. 'This is a different FARDC then a year ago.'

 august 24, 16.00 hrs 

Three civilians were killed, several wounded today. One of them was killed during heavy protests in the center of the city.  A south African soldier was heavily wounded. According to Lambert Mende, spokesperson of the government, there are 12 M23 prisoners. 

Everything has calmed down a bit in Goma, but population is still very nervous. Many people tell me they will not sleep tonight, or sleep in a place they feel more secure. People at Monusco are also on edge. One of them told me he had a feeling M23 was planning to bombard the base. 

Goma was in chaos this morning. People were furious about ongoing bombing of innocent civilians. They accused Monusco of not protecting the population. At first young people began to make barricades. After that a dead body was dragged through the streets out of protest against ongoing bombing and insecurity. Later on a protester died. Bystanders accused Monusco of having fired on the protesters. Monusco strongly denied. 

During a pressconference Monusc-boss Martin Kobler accused M23 of manipulating the population in order to create more chaos. He also accused M23 of playing the ethnic card, by targeting a Tutsi-church, although he said, that attack was not yet confirmed. 

Commander in chief Santos Cruz said that it was unacceptable M23 using civilians as a target. He called it a warcrime and a crime against humanity.'It's unacceptable they are creating chaos and manipulating the population against Monusco. We ask journalists not to accept this manipulation. We are fighting together with FARDC, we are together at the front and we do everything nessecary. Since yesterday, the special brigade with a mandate to neutralize M23, is fighting as well.

Santos Cruz said M23 were shelling Goma from hills at Kibati with long range weapons. They were outside security zone around Goma. M23 entered this security zone on wednesday. Monusco is now trying to neutralize positions of M23 in the hills to prevent further bombing. Santos Cruz emphasized they had no indication at all, bombs were coming from Rwanda. All indicates at M23, he said. 

FARDC spokesperson Olivier Hamuli said they haven't moved an inch in the 48 hours they were fighting. They were holding positions. He said M23 threw boms on Rwanda to gain sympathy of Rwanda.

M23 denies throwing boms at Goma or Rwanda. They are accusing FARDC, because that would get Monusco into active fighting. 

Yesterday spokesperson Lambert Mende accused rwanda of having crossed the border and fighting with M23. He said there were bodies found. Rwanda denies.

Saw some pictures today of the Monusco-bosses going to the battle field. Looked like a holiday trip with bulletproof vests and helmets. Everybody was smiling, making jokes. The new commander Santos Cruz seems a die hard and fully committed to clean North-Kivu. 


And amongst all this chaos, people get married.

Saturday august 24, 2013, 11.00 hrs

Wanted to go to Ndosho area to see what was happening. But crowd was very angry. They are in the streets, protesting against @monusco. Was too dangerous to get camera out of bag. They were shouting, threatening. Saw on twitter worse happened to Dutch colleagues Andrea Dijkstra and Jeroen van Loon. They were almost lynched. Now i'm back in hotel room and following what's happening on twitter. This is a difficult situation for journalists. Not only because of angry mob. Everybody is so convinced of their fighting for the right cause, that they don't want to hear things that contradict their ideas. they get angry when you say something that don't fit into their ideology. Plus, lots of local media have their own agenda and their own interests as a lot of them are owned by politicians or entrepreneurs. In a war like this, I ask myself the whole time: who is giving me this information, who is profiting?

Foto's: Flag media


Saturday august 24, 2013

Things are heating up in Goma. This morning the town was shelled again. Unofficial numbers say at least two dead and several wounded. Young people from Ndosho, a quarter of Goma hit by a shell, started barricading the streets, out of sheer frustration. Almost at the same time, in the same quarter, people where dragging a dead body through the streets in protest against the shelling. It's a victim of this mornings bomb which fell at church St. Francois. 

Everybody is pointing at each other: M23 points at Congolese army and FDLR, the Hutu rebels, FARDC says it's M23, people on the street say it's Rwanda. UN promised a thorough investigation.

I'm wondering where this new bombing will lead to. Fighting will become more intense, with Monusco's special brigade helping FARDC against M23. They are using full force so it seems. All morning there is the sound of helicopters swarming above Goma. 

Vrijdag 23 augustus 19.00 uur

Just came 'home' from  press conference at Monusco. It was a double PC: originally Mrs Flavia Pansieri, deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, would have an 'interaction with the press'. But Monusco decided to combine her PC with a Q and A with Monusco-boss Martin Kobler and military chief  of Monusco, general Santos Cruz. Off course Mrs Pansieri got not many questions. Most questions were about the battle 10 km outside Goma. Holland was very strongly represented: 2 journalist-compatriots were also at PC!


 In the middle: general Santos Cruz, on the right Mrs Flavia Pansieri.

The head of Monusco, Martin Kobler was also present. He emphasized that Monusco will do everything to defend Goma and to make it impossible M23 will bomb the city again. The troops are very professional and very committed to the cause, he said. (does he mean it was different before?). He agreed with Kenny Katombe from Reuters. He also was very impatient. We are cooperating very well with the Congolese army and we will take strong, very strong action if M23 is threatening the population of Goma again. 

General Santos Cruz admitted they were shocked by the bombing of M23. What happened yesterday was unacceptable. Even from criminals they didn't expect such irresponsible behavior (what behavior does he expect of criminals?). He said shells were fired outside the security zone, established three weeks ago. He was very happy that at that time they began to give priority to Goma. 

That started another journalist: seems you protect Goma, but not North Kivu? Kobler answered vaguely but ended with: our new mandate is clear; we can neutralize armed rebel forces. General Santos Cruz added that they fought well yesterday and today with FARDC. 

What about the special brigade, a journalist asked. I saw today they were at least one kilometer from the front. We were at the same place. So what does this mean? And here the general became more specific without becoming too specific. He said what intervention COULD mean, and in fact he was saying what it meant: using firearms, artillery, move the troops, use helicopters, coordinate actions with FARDC and know which role both play. 'We have had strong actions together since yesterday'. Andrea Dijkstra, a Dutch colleague said she saw this morning seeing a UN-helicopter throwing bombs. This was confirmed by Santos Cruz. 

She also asked if all the eyewitnesses were wrong. They claim bombs came from Rwanda, not from front. But Santos Cruz said that even for him, with 44 years of experience, it was difficult to tell, were a missile comes from. So for unexperienced eyes it's very difficult. We have no indication at all, bombs were coming from Rwanda he said. Head of monusco, Martin Kobler said he experienced a atmosphere full of rumors, and he wanted to stay with the facts. 

Facts: Congolese are sure the bombs came from Rwanda and are more than disappointed in Monusco. Monusco promised to protect them and they didn't.

Vrijdag 23 augustus 2013, 12.00 uur

Went to three bomsites and took following pics:

House nr 40, avenue Kasavusu,quartier Murara, commune de karisimsi (spelling of names might not be correct …)


Yesterday Tresor Kayubi was with three sisters in the house when the bomb fell, around 16.15 hrs. Two sisters were badly wounded. They are on the intensive care of Heal Africa. I was lucky, says Trevor. I don't know what we gonna do now. It takes a lot of money to rebuild the house.


Ecole Epeluberisi and the eglise Anglicaine, Office 2, quartier Murara (again names might be misspelled, still have to check). School was hit. The school was closed for the holidays, but housed a lot of 'deplacés' from Kanyaru Chiriya. According to eyewitnesses, there were three children wounded. One of them died in hospital Heal Africa. Also a guard was wounded.



60, avenue de la frontière, Katindo. House is owned by Belgian expatriate, Willy Boffin. He has no idea how much the damage is. He's not insured. 'In DRC that's absolutely useless.' Here nobody was hurt. Nobody was home exept a guard.



        Part of bomb ….



Bertrand Bisimwa, M23