Blog Visit Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo

18 april 2024
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I visited Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), from 19 to 26th of March 2024. It was my first visit to DRC. My assignment was to review socio-economic development projects conducted by my client, a Christian organization. This note is written on my own behalf and is for interested readers. It is not an official document, and it does not represent views of my client, nor of Will2Sustain. It is just the sharing of some personal observations.

View from the plane, close to the arrival to Goma.

Goma is a huge city on the borders of Lake Kivu. In a strange way it remembered me of Nice, France, possibly due to the combination of hills and beautiful views over water. There are also some beautiful restaurants, see picture below, and houses near the lakeside.

But don’t be misled by the beauty of these pictures. DRC is a country where there are different conflicts, mainly for access to its natural resources, but also from Islamist extremists. There are many, some say about 120, militias operating in East DRC and many people have fled to Goma. If you want to read more about the conflicts in DRC, I refer you to a book by Charles Onana that recently was publicized titled Congo Holocaust[1]. On the internet, you can find a lot of information on the conflicts. It is affecting millions of people, or, let me phrase it differently, persons, persons like you and me, individuals, with names, faces, families, friends, backgrounds, dreams, …

Persons get killed, day by day, month by month, year by year. A farmer on a field, a woman looking for firewood, a pastor on the road. Persons get violated, day by day, month by month, year by year. An individual flees to seek protection, another does do as well, and another, another, in their dozens, hundreds, thousands, ten thousands, hundred thousands, millions. Many flee to the outskirts of Goma, to camps that lack security, water, sanitation, health facilities and where individuals run a daily risk of further violations.

The international journalism and criticism focus on the Israel – Hamas war, and to a lesser extent on Russia – Ukraine war. It made one person speak out: “Are we less people than people from Israel, Gaza, Ukraine?” The last few months the conflicts have increased and many more persons have fled. The total number of persons, individuals like you and me, who fled their homes amounts to nearly 7 million. That is around 39% of the current Dutch population!

The militia are not only from DRC itself, but international countries are implicated, notably Rwanda and Uganda. But these countries do not have the processing capacity to make end products out of the natural resources that are being extracted from Eastern DRC. So, countries that import these raw materials from Rwanda and Uganda are also implicated. Many of the arms that are produced and sold come from countries like France. Can’t Bellingcat or Follow the Money study the money trail for these arms? Then there is the funding: who is funding the militia, notably the bigger ones like M23 and ADF? Is it just individuals with money, or are countries engaged? Which countries? Is it only Rwanda and Uganda, or are Islamic countries funding ADF?

But aren’t we, at the end of the day, all implicated since we have become so dependent on our mobile phones, televisions, computers and other end products that contain raw materials sourced from DRC? And we do not ask questions regarding the source of our modern brands’ gadgets. Yes, you and I also carry responsibility since we are not critical enough about what we buy. The only direct influence you as an individual have is by being critical about how to spend your money. You can also support organizations that continue to provide humanitarian and even development support in this horrible context. Perhaps you can do some time longer with your current gadgets and use the saving for supporting one of these agencies? And for Christian readers: please pray for DRC. Pray a lot for DRC. Pray even more for DRC. The country needs miracles.

Despite the difficult context there are also positive things happening, and I want to share a few. The people I met are strong, courageous and committed to develop.

I saw socio-economic projects like tailoring, carpentry, small restaurants, bakery and so on that impact positively on the beneficiaries, their families and communities.

For a naturalist like me there is a lot of beauty to see in Goma, at areas where there are trees, gardens, parks and near the lake. Like this White-browed robin chat.  

I am increasingly also interested in gardening, and it was nice to see that many people use any free part of a compound to grow food. That is just smart and inspirational.  

Ultimately, DRC, is just like Abyei in Sudan where I worked before, an area where richness in natural resources is not a blessing, but a curse. I think this country, just like other partially forgotten conflicts like in Sudan and Yemen, needs more international attention. But that is beyond most of us to influence, so let me finish by asking you to be more critical as to what you buy, an example is the chocolate on the picture below. Our purchasing power is a strength. Our combined purchasing power is a force. One suggestion:

For all those who suffer in DRC, or suffer from what they have witnessed in DRC: