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Goma: When the City Became a Nightmare
Zawadi Nikuzi, HROC-Coordinator, North Kivu, Congo

Goma is the provincial capital of the North Kivu province. It borders Rwanda and they both share Lake Kivu. Its population is estimated to be over a million, therefore attracting businesses from all over. It is looked upon as a safe haven for those fleeing wars from different villages upcountry. It is relatively safe because it is the headquarter of the United Nations peacekeeping force in North Kivu, the governor’s residence, and a good presence of expatriates working in different international organizations. Since the defection of the armed elements from the Congolese army in May 2012, the security situation had been deteriorating day by day. People were fleeing from different territories to find safety in different camps in Mugunga near Goma.On November 20, 2012, the town of Goma was captured by the rebel group, called M23. They occupied the city for 11 days and then left under the order of the UN Security Council.

During those eleven days the social life was characterized by massive displacement of people; paralyzed activities (commercial, schools, etc.); closing of banks (no one could access their money); no entry nor exit of food stuffs into Goma town, forcing people to get food from Gisenyi; systematic lootings of vehicles and other goods; increased violence and killings in neighborhoods of those suspected to be thieves; and no running water or electricity. Prisoners broke down a wall of the main prison of Goma and all of the prisoners took off and became another threat. People who were sent money by their loved ones via western union had to cross the border and get it from different banks in Gisenyi. Desperation and helplessness remained the order of the day. With no food in the markets and no money, life was getting worse day in day out. A friend in need is a friend indeed. When people did not know where the next meal would come from AGLI came to their rescue with food distribution of corn flour and beans to almost 200 families.

The situation remains uncertain. Up to now people are still scared. However business is picking up slowly. Most international NGOs’ staff now live in Gisenyi -- they work in Goma and cross over after work. The main border Goma – Gisenyi, which was on 24/7 duty is now closing at 6 pm. There is a lot to be done. Most people are traumatized and need help . We hope the agreement signed in Addis Ababa on February 24th will be followed and this will allow life to come back.