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Trócaire’s office is based in Kinshasa, the country’s capital city, but our programmes are implemented by local partner organisations in the Bas Congo Province (South West of the country) and in the Ituri District of the Oriental Province (North East of the country).
Displaced people wait to be registered at Mugunga Camp, just outside Goma, Congo DRC, 2009. Photo: Conor O’ Loughlin.
During the first couple of weeks of November, I was joined by some of my colleagues on a field visit to Ituri to meet with some of our local partners. There we experienced first-hand just some of the daily challenges of working in DRC. We lost a full day endeavouring to navigate a waterlogged mud road as numerous heavy trucks and lorries tried in vain to manoeuvre out of the same mire of mud surrounding us. This road was the National 4, the main business link between Bunia, the main town in the Ituri District, and neighbouring Uganda. This for me shows the careless approach successive Congolese governments have shown for the development of the country’s infrastructure – and the wellbeing of its people.
While on our trip, we also witnessed violence and insecurity in both Bunia and the surrounding area. Armed robberies involving small businesses took place in both Bunia and in a small, nearby village in which our partners work. These were early signs of the security situation deteriorating.
Shortly after my return to Kinshasa, the militia movement M23, took control of the town of Goma, the main town of the North Kivu province in Eastern DRC. The Congolese army did not fight the rebels (the army is poorly equipped, badly organised and rarely paid) and the UN Peace Keeping Mission (MONUSCO) whose mandate is to support the national army, was left looking on as the rebels took the town.
This lack of action from both the national army and MONUSCO incensed many Congolese. In Bunia the resulting protests turned violent. Many UN offices were vandalised including MONUSCO’s own offices. Gunshots could be heard late into the night of 20 November 2012.
This waterlogged mud road is the main business link between Bunia, the main town in the Ituri District, Democratic Republic of Congo and neighbouring Uganda.
The violence continued into the following day and international non-governmental organisations offices were also attacked. After two days of continued violence it appeared that a tentative calm had returned. However, as the violence continued, our partners in Bunia could not reach their office and they have been left fearing that further violence could return. On Monday 26 November almost one hundred expatriate staff of MONUSCO, other UN agencies and International organizations were evacuated from Bunia.
For now, I am keeping a close eye on developments in the Kivus and on any renewed violence in Ituri. I am hoping for a long lasting solution for this very long lasting conflict. I am hoping that our partners will be able to resume their work safely and that communities receiving Trócaire’s support won’t be affected any further by the violence. I hope that someday DRC will have an accountable and transparent government able to provide peace, security and a hopeful future for Congolese men and women, girls and boys.
by Léa Valentini, Governance and Gender Programme Officer in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).