The following are eye-witness accounts of bloggers based in the Eastern part of the Democratic Republic of Congo about the situation in the area following fresh clashes between rebels, government and UN forces.
The situation is degrading fast. There has been a lot of shooting in town until about 40 minutes ago. Since then, there is silence. You could hear a pin drop. Rumours are rife, but there are some confirmed reports of CNDP rebels on the outskirts of town. MONUC is evacuating their staff to Rwanda.
The Congolese army has totally given up:
It’s total chaos in Goma. I am being told, through various phone calls and text messages, that the army have now laid down their weapons at Kibumba, 12 miles north of Goma, and are fleeing the rebels. In other words they have totally given up.
Some of the soldiers are running/driving/zooming on motorbikes through town towards the west, Sake, and they are going past my house.
The governor of North Kivu has apparently also left town.
Now there is only the UN peacekeeping forces stopping Nkunda’s rebels from taking Goma.
There is lots and lots of speculation right now – and panic. I will keep you posted.
I just got back from the Ranger camp and was about to work with Innocent to report that we have found 3 more Rangers – which of course is fantastic news. One was severely beaten by the military and getting medical treatment, and the other 2 are exhausted – but at least we found them.
Jean Claude and his colleagues in Mount Thsiaberimu:
Hello this is Jean Claude. At the moment we are safe at Mount Thsiaberimu but we are very concerned about the security situation at Goma.
I am at Kyondo at the moment and rebels have started to walk around. I have asked all staff to be very careful.
This morning I spoke to my colleague Henry who is in Goma. He had an ok night but there is fighting between the rebels and the Congolese army at Kibumba, just 30km from Goma. Gorilla Organization staff are staying in their homes for now but are keeping a very close eye on situation and an evacuation plan is in place should they need it.
Some Gorilla Organization partners are based in Rutshuru (between Goma and Mt Tshiaberimu) which is now under control of the Nkunda’s rebels. We had contact with staff there yesterday but today we have lost contact. We think they may have fled towards Uganda for safety.
Readers reactions to Jean's post:
Christine C., on 29 Oct 2008
Jean Claude — my thoughts and prayers are with all of you…I know it is not much, but I suppose it is the best any of us can do from so far away. I hope to God that those who have the power, come to Congo’s aid very soon…It is horrifying to think about what the rebels have managed so far.
Virginia, on 29 Oct 2008
Jean Claude, I am very sorry to hear about this horrendous news. Please stay safe. I will be in Bukavu in 2 weeks time. Are you coming south?
Peter, on 29 Oct 2008
I have worked in Goma and East Kivu from 1994-1999 and know the region and its people well.
I am sorry you all had to go through this pain of civil war and unrest once again…!
Annie, on 29 Oct 2008
Yes…..please stay safe……this is just terrible for all of you! I don’t want anything happening to any of you! You have all worked so hard!
“Fighting at Rumangabo started at 0400 today between the rebels of Laurent Nkunda and the army. It has now totally engulfed the park station and our Rangers have been forced to flee into the forests for their lives. The rebels now are the only occupants of the park station at Rumangabo. This has never happened before. This is a serious time. We need to get our 50+ Rangers back to safety in Goma, 45km south of Rumangabo. The main road is blocked because of the fighting so they are walking through the forests of the park south, to Kibumba, about 20km away, where we aim to pick them up in trucks. We are trying to maintain phone contact but they don’t have much battery life in their phones”.
Emmanuel has made an appeal on Gorilla.cd and any donations made here will go directly to support these rangers during these difficult times. I’ve spoken to some friends on the ground who say that the situation is extremely bad.
Here is a video account of the situation in Rumangabo:
I am back in Goma and to be honest too tired to explain our day in Rumangabo.
So I will let Balemba do the talking, in this video I filmed this morning
Viewers are reacting to the video:
lisah Says: 9 Oct 2008 I am speechless as well. Lisa
jean-claude S (France) Says: 9 Oct 2008 Balemba. I come to greet your courage and that which filmed these images. You make us live the war directly … and we are, even by far, very close with all these poor people frightened… without being able to act. I hope for only one thing for all, finally the peace… but it seems well far still. Thanks for your news. I hope to have good news of your sector quickly. My friendships with to all.
jessiewiseman Says: 9 Oct 2008 please go safely.
Balemba Says: 10 Oct 2008 Thanks Jean Claude. Actually,this is the unique way to break the silence.
Says: 10 Oct 2008 I’m on a computer with a very slow speed connection and was able to see your video, Pierre, but hear no sound – but who needs sound with images like these? They say it all… It is a great shame that your powerful images are not being shown all over the world. I know that I am far from impartial, but right now I can only ask: who cares about vice-presidential candidate Palin’s being the mother of five if all over Kivu women are mothers of five and they are running away from gunfire on dirt roads? Who deserves the headlines? The world’s attention? Who has a good plan on how to save Kivu’s children and will implement it? Bon courage to all and take care. Iris
“Insecurity, uncertainty and violence,” Samantha Newport reports:
I am in a different part of town to Emmanuel and I can hear the same shooting and the same silences. I am holed up at a UN compound with about 200 local and international staff.
Innocent is with his family in an area of town where the military are shooting and looting. Balemba is hiding under a bed in his house in Goma and Diddy is safe although I am not sure where he is.
It is impossible to know how the rangers at the camp are getting on as they are very exposed to pillaging and violence.
We continue to wait and see what is going to happen. But for now there is absolutely no way that anybody is exiting this compound. We need to remain together and stay safe.