Fighting returns to eastern DR Congo

Fighting between the new rebel group M23 and government forces have displaced thousands of people from North Kivu.

When you cross the border from Rwanda into Goma, you leave what is a pristine tarmacked road, and drive into a bumpy pothole-filled one. This small observation says so much. 

Rwanda, the site of genocide where a sixth of the population was wiped out, has made a remarkable transition with the help of the international community. The Democratic Republic of Congo, a country the size of Western Europe, remains one of the poorest places in the world.

Goma is located on the northern shores of Lake Kivu, and on the border with Gisenyi in Rwanda, it is the capital of North Kivu region.

After a relatively stable period, this city is now close to renewed fighting in the region.

At first glance, as you travel around town, the markets are bustling with life and music. Then you stop on a street corner and within minutes, people surround you asking for money, water, anything you can spare.

Some of the internally displaced have come to Goma, but most, around 8,000 people, have fled across to a transit camp in Rwanda.

The fighting between the new rebel group M23 and government forces known as FARDC is the talk of the town. Intelligence chiefs from nations neighbouring the DRC, top generals, as well as politicians, are holding emergency meetings here.

High on the agenda is the whereabouts of General Bosco Ntaganda the International Criminal court wants him arrested for allegedly recruiting and using child soldiers. If you’d come to Goma just a few months ago, you might have seen the general playing tennis, or sipping coffee in one of his hotels.

Anneke Van Woudenberg from Human Rights Watch says: “It is shocking that the Congolese government was able to promote an ICC war criminal.” She refers to the fact that he was made a general just one year after commanding soldiers who killed 150 people in Kiwanja in North Kivu.

The general has left his life of luxury behind, and is believed to be hiding somewhere in the bush, in an area bordering DRC, Rwanda, and Uganda. He can easily slip across borders, as there are many in this region that are still loyal to him. 

We telephone and speak to Lieutenant Colonel Vianney Kazarana, a spokesperson for the M23. He vehemently denies the group is being led by General Bosco, and says he has “no idea” where the general is. Even if Bosco is captured, President Joseph Kabila has made it clear he will not be handing him over to the ICC.

Jason Stearns in his book, “Dancing in the Glory of Monsters” puts it so well: “There are no easy solutions for the Congo, no silver bullets to produce accountable government and peace. The ultimate fate of the country lies with the Congolese people themselves.” 

Capturing and putting General Bosco Ntaganda on trial would go some way to proving to the Congolese people, there can be rule of law in their country.

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