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Bukavu on the Congolese-Rwandan border: A city at the crossroads of conflict

Kakaluigi, a foreign missionary who has lived in the eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for 35 years describes a feeling of apprehension about the future that overshadows Bukavu.

Bukavu is a city of survivors. During the First Congo War (1996-1997),Bukavu was caught in the middle of fighting between Tutsi government forces and the Hutu that fled to the regionafter the Rwandan genocide. Government and rebel forces clashed there during the Second Congo War (1998-2003). In 2004, the city fell to soldiers led by General Nkunda, a dissident pro-Tutsi Congolese general, and in just three days, some 16,000 women were raped.

Bukavu still faces insecurity and violence, including raids from FARDC soldiers and continued fighting in (Fr) North Kivu as recently as yesterday.

The presidential elections have yet to bring the peace and stability they promised. Kakaluigi wonders whose interests President Joseph Kabila really has in mind: those of Bukavu’s people or those of the Rwandan government.

Bukavu ce 20 mai 2007, le matin. Tout est suffisamment calme et tranquille, mais beaucoup d’appréhension se manifeste dans les milieux de nos populations. Il y a trop de nuages à l'horizon, qui ne font pas bien espérer. On ne sait pas où on veut aller, et vers quelle partie Kabila se penche. On se demande: avec qui il dialogue vraiment, si avec les congolais ou avec les rwandais. Ou bien au cours de la journée il est avec nous et pendant la nuit il est avec Kigali.

L’histoire de Nkunda nous fait penser trop de choses qui ne sont pour rien claires. J’ai l’impression qu’une situation, très semblable à celle de 1998, peut-être, se prépare secrètement, même s’il n’y a pas, probablement, la volonté politique internationale qu’il avait il y a 9 ans, car es choses sont fortement changées.

Mais toujours est plus clair que la Rwanda a la main prise sur le Congo quant à des intérêts pour la population. Les gens ont récupéré courage et esperance. Nous souhaitons qu'elles ne soient pas déçues au-delà de toute limite. (PB)

Morning, May 20, 2007, Bukavu. Everything is calm and peaceful enough, but there is a lot of apprehension among our people. There are too many clouds on the horizon, that it's hard to hold out hope. We don't know where we want to go, or toward which party [President Joseph Kabila] is leaning. We wonder: who is he really holding talks with, the Congolese or the Rwandans? Perhaps during the day he is with us and at night he is with Kigali.The Nkunda incident makes us think of too many things that are not at all clear. I have the impression that a situation very similar to 1998 may be secretly being prepared, even if there is not, in all likelihood, the international political will that there was 9 years ago, because things have greatly changed.But it still clear that Rwanda has its hands on the Congo when it comes to certain interests of the people. The people have gotten back their courage and hope. We only hope that they will not be disappointed beyond measure.
Bukavu Preschool

Photo: An early education center outside of Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Courtesy Julien Harneis.

1 comment

  • It’s a fact, Nkunda getting out of the regular army scares a lot of people. I’m back in Kinshasa for the moment but lived there for a year and a half until last october. I have mixed emotions about Bukavu, I’m glad to be in Kin, but I’m also sorry to be away from BKV.

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