Calm before the war

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November 29th 2011
Published: November 29th 2011
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‘We don’t have any respect for our lives, the dangers from the volcano and lake is like a game for us. We are not like you westerners and plan for the bad, it is when we find ourselves in a dangerous position we think, oh I wish we had planned for the future. We are more scared and worried of our own people and in one week, after the election we are expecting something really bad to happen.’

This was a conversation we had on with a local from perhaps the most dangerous city in the world Goma, which is just across the border from Rwanda.

Driving around Goma was like in safari where you are sitting in the safely and watching through the window to the reality – demonstrations, propaganda less than a week before the election, crashed cars, destroyed buildings, fights. With every step outside the car in Goma streets you’re safely decrease at least twice and you are risking a lot. The max speed is 30km/h in the city center since the road is incredible bad and if something would happen it is almost impossible to run away. We took the risk since we were able to stay with a local family and face the reality in Goma.

We felt very safe though because at the home of the family, from our bedroom window we could see a UN sniper position (see photo) and we soon got to have a nice little chat with these guys. Turns out the UN are all from India in this part of Goma one good thing about Indians is that it is always easy to strike up a conversation with them if you mention cricket and soon we were chatting away. These guys are stationed here for six months, hate the place and hate the food and are not looking forward to the time after the elections.

It is what everyone in the city was talking about, the elections and to be honest whenever we asked someone about it they just said they were scared, worried or had their bags packed for when it happens. The reasons are that they like is that they have just come out of war already, the biggest war since the second world war which took over 4 million lives. It is really not know in the outside world about what has happened here but DR of the Congo may be descending back into this soon. The current President has said that he will fight if he loses with the opposition saying the same; both are very powerful which a big concern is. The family we stayed with is ready to leave the country, one bag each and leaving behind house, cars, all belongings and memories.

For us to see the build up to the elections was an experience and to be able to feel the city trying to rebuild after the last war or the volcano eruption in 2002 in hard to understand how they keep going. But looking back at the first sentence in this blog, it seems they are living in the moment without planning for the future or understanding the consequences of what may happen. It is perhaps what much of the public is use to, growing up in a country of war is just the norm and perhaps having peace is something out of the ordinary?

We went and visited several schools and orphanages on our first and second days in Goma and the conditions were not good. The floors of the class rooms are simply volcanic rocks and when it rains a flow of water runs through the class. You see orphans all over the place trying to get your attention to give food or money or many are jus in plain shock to see us there. DR of the Congo has been by far the hardest for seeing the children and their curiosity at times gets a little too much. The children jump, pull hair, pinch, fight and scratch all trying to get close to us and once we had several hundred children surrounding us and it was not until some random guy came to us with a stick hitting the kids that we were able to continue.

Unfortanually we did see many people with sticks using on children, also in a class we went to where the children were doing exercises. One mistake and whack, across the back of the legs with a scream and they just get on with it.

So, our three days in DR of the Congo were up and we had planned to go before more trouble but we got an offer. To go deeper into the country to visit where the country has been hit the hardest by the war. To a place where rebels had burnt down the village and the children are in a dire position, much worse off than in Goma.

How to do this:

If you would like to do the same as we have done, it is also possible to stay and do some volunteering. To donate money for these children through an organization maybe is a good idea but just a small percent of your money is going to the kids. You can do a small change directly in this big country in Central Africa. If you are willing to go to DR of the Congo, volunteer and get a lifetime experience, you are more than welcome to contact Rev. Athanase Habimana who has 175 churches, many orphanages and helping people in the villages in this country. He would be more than happy to get help with the situation in DR of the Congo. You can get a full board accommodation which means that you would pay just 5-10 dollars per day.

His contact details:

+243 991719752
+243 853735295
+243 808888626

We have stayed with him and his lovely family for few days, and we had a fantastic time. We highly reccommend not to pass Goma without to meet them. But please check and re-check the current safety situation on ground, it can change quickly. If you’ll contact them so let them know that you read Christopher and Diana’s blog on internet, and he’ll know what you mean.

For visa information and costs, it is in the blog about the volcano.. But the visa we got is a seven day one and if you hope to volunteer and stay longer more info may be needed.

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29th November 2011

Another excellent blog, especially coming from such an off-the-beaten-track place such as DR Congo.

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