BBC NEWS – 2007-10-22 22:55:46
(October 17, 2007) — Residents of eastern Democratic Republic of Congo tell the BBC News website how the recent violence between rebels loyal to dissident General Laurent Nkunda and government soldiers in the region has affected them.
More than 370,000 people have been displaced by the fighting since the start of the year in a growing humanitarian crisis.
THEO, 36, COMMUNICATIONS, GOMA
I have a farm in Masisi. I am very worried about it. I have spent a lot of time putting it together, developing the 40 hectares to what it is now and now in just one day all of my work could be ruined.
I employ 10 people but their families stay with them and so altogether, there were probably about 80 people living on my farm. But they have all fled. They had to because of the fighting; because the farm is now occupied by government troops.
I can’t reach my workers because of network problems. But I know they would’ve fled to the district where Nkunda is in control – that is where Tutsi ethnic people have to flee to.
They see that as the area where they have security. They might sympathise with Nkunda but they might not. I’m not certain. All I know is that they run to his area because they have been badly-treated by the government.
The government accuses people who live near and around the area where my farm is of supporting Nkunda’s troops and so they cannot turn to the government for protection. They will be denied.
LEOPOLD, 40, LOCAL NGO WORKER, BUKAVU
What is impacting us here are the displaced people arriving from the north. People here are very shocked about the fighting. And when there are problems in the north then it means that economically it influences things here. Prices go up because beans, fish and potatoes come from the northern towns of Masisi and Rutchuru.
Prices have gone up a lot. Especially the price of beans – before the fighting a 50kg sack of beans was about $25 but now it has gone up to $36. Nkunda really is the problem, and the rebels from Rwanda. This problem has existed for a long time.
People here think that Nkunda should be invited into government. Because he is not, people in the Kivus think that there is a hidden agenda.
We know that the genocidaires – Hutu militia made up of former Rwandan soldiers and others who fled into [DR] Congo after the 1994 genocide known as the FDLR – are not good for the Congolese and so the government should take a hardline.
How can the government fight both Nkunda and the FDLR? There is a feeling here in Bukavu that the US and the UK are supporting Nkunda through Rwanda. To tell you the truth, people here are very shocked about the fighting and the political situation.
After last year’s election, people expected to see construction and development. But we see nothing. There are no jobs; there is no money – we can’t see any of the things that the president promised us. Support for [President Joseph] Kabila has come down – he would not have as many votes now as he had at the time of the elections.
SOLANGE, 18, FLED SAKE FOR GOMA
There was fighting in the mountains. I heard gunfire – the bullets, bombs and rockets. It was government soldiers against Nkunda’s men. Nkunda’s rebels attacked and the soldiers fought back to protect us civilians.
A provisional minister of parliament came to Sake on Sunday. He held a meeting at the market and told us that the government was ready to really begin attacking Nkunda and put an end to the problem.
He told us to leave. Many women left but some men, they didn’t want to leave. I left Sake with my whole family – my father, my mother and my five brothers and six sisters.
We had to leave nearly all our belongings because we came on foot. We walked for about 30km (19 miles). All we could carry were blankets and mats. The clothes I am wearing now are the only ones I have here.
Along the way here – to Goma – we were safe. There were a lot of soldiers from the government. They didn’t even stop to ask us anything. They were just busy carrying a lot of heavy weapons. We walked along the main road. We didn’t even have to hide in the bushes.
Now, here in Goma, my family and I are being hosted by some of our relatives. Their home is big – it has four rooms. But there are now 28 of us here and so it doesn’t seem big anymore.
We have a little clean water but it is not sufficient. And we aren’t getting any help from anyone. But we must just stay here. We don’t plan to go back to Sake – it is too much of a risk… every time calm comes, it never stays.
I don’t want to stay here in Goma because it is difficult. It is difficult to find enough food, to find water, to find anything that you need. I want the government to put an end to this so I can go back home. My family, we just need help. We are going through a really bad situation and we really need help.
ZICO, 35, TRANSLATOR, GOMA
There is no fighting today. Here in Goma, people are in their offices and working as usual.
So many, many people have come to Goma lately. But the situation is OK now – the president is still here with the minister of humanitarian affairs and the minister of defence.
They are saying that it is now the end – they are asking General Laurent Nkunda’s soldiers to join the national army. But I don’t think that the fighting will stop soon.
Nkunda will refuse to surrender and the government will not negotiate with him. And so this is not the end.
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