Who’s Winning?

November 15, 2008

Children at Kibati Camp, near Goma. Credit: Kate Holt

The conflict here in Goma is a meaningless mess. Laurent Nkunda claims his gunmen are protecting ethnic Tutsis from the attentions of Hutu militias – the former Interahamwe, responsible for the worst abuses in the Rwandan genocide. The government says he is a terrorist, and points to allegations of war crimes. Then add in a sprinkling of other armed groups and the result is a complex conflict with a mystifying series of front points rather than front lines.
In the past weeks Nkunda has moved closer to Goma, capital of North Kivu, and stated his intention to topple Kinshasa if the government fails to open serious talks on sharing power.
All of which everyone knows is nonsense. Nkunda’s troops have little chance of taking Goma, much less holding it. And as for marching on Kinshasa… forget it.
The conflict is another example of a messy African war, where it is impossible to work out who the good guys are. Rebels move forward by massing troops in one area, then immediately lose territory days later in a neverending cycle. All the leaders claim to be protecting their people, while 250,000 people are forced from their homes and women, like the ones I met yesterday, become prizes…

The first soldiers kicked down the door to her house, killed her younger brother, his wife and son.
Then, as Ngiraganga fled barefoot towards safety, she came across the second wave of soldiers.
They asked her for money and when she explained that she had nothing to give they took her clothes, stripping the 42-year-old to her underwear.
The third group of soldiers took all she had left. “They beat me and raped me,” Ngiraganga said quietly in Swahili, sitting in the gloomy office of a women’s shelter. “They weren’t drunk, just dirty from the fighting.”



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