Saturday, November 24, 2012

Dave Zarembka's Goma Emails, Re-Post #1

Update on Goma, Tuesday

Re-posting of Dave Zarembka's emails #1
Report from Kenya #194 – November 20, 2012

              This morning, after a day’s truce and the Congolese government’s refusal to negotiate with the M23 rebels, the M23 soldier entered and took the town of Goma. Here is one report I received: “Now Goma is in the hands of M23; they are controlling Goma. The battle now is in Mugunga [the former internally displaced persons’ camp were many of AGLI’s rape survivors live]. All Gisenyi borders are also controlled by the rebels.”

Clearly the Congolese army did not put up any resistance and fled. But this is the way “wars” are fought in this region. One side acquires a fearsome reputation and the opposing side retreats and flees. I do not remember one case since 1996 where the Rwandan army or Tutsi-led rebel groups, which have the reputation as the fiercest fighters in the region, have “lost” to the Congolese army, which has always fled. It also seems that the UN peace keeping force decided not to oppose the entrance into the city. I think that this is proper because the UN peace keepers are not authorized to become a fighting army against the rebel forces.

          This morning I received this message from David Bucura:

“Yesterday [Monday], Theoneste, Baptiste, and Therese were doing a [children’s] peer mediation workshop in the Gisenyi Peace Center [which is only two blocks from the Congolese border]. Around 10 am, bullets were falling in Gisenyi and they had to lie down on the floor with the children. There was no way to send the children back because their parents were not home because they had run away. It was a bad day, says Baptiste and Therese. Therese fell down and her leg is not moving now.

“One person [the news reports say two people] died in Gisenyi and others are in the hospital. Many people have left Gisenyi, coming here in Kigali. The problem was to find vehicles because no buses are running, Zawadi was evacuated yesterday from the hospital and she is now at Mahuko [her home fifteen minutes from Gisenyi], but she is thinking to come in Kigali today for medical treatment. In our house now we have two families from Gisenyi. We are expecting more. Zawadi told me that the main help is to have a little funds for evacuation. Theoneste is going this morning to Gisenyi to see what is happening. Our church members in the Gisenyi area hosted many people and they do not know how long it will take. The situation is so confused. I was told that people in Goma do not want to move from their houses because they do not know where to go? The problem for our people in Goma is that, because they can't leave their houses, they have no water and no food. If the borders will be opened, they will need our help.”

          M23 talk as if they plan now to move on to Bukavu in South Kivu at the southern end of Lake Kivu. I anticipate that there is going to be a very negative reaction from the international community regarding M23 conquest of Goma.
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Since 1998, David Zarembka has been the Coordinator of the African Great Lakes Initiative of the Friends Peace Teams. He has been involved with East and Central Africa since 1964 when he taught Rwandan refugees in Tanzania. He is married to Gladys Kamonya and lives in western Kenya. David is the author of A Peace of Africa: Reflections on Life in the Great Lakes Region (available at

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