|The smooth waters of Lake Kivu have seen much conflict in recent years.|
Over dessert, Edouard recounted a previous trip to this hotel under very different circumstances. On a return visit to his country six years ago, during Congo's chaotic civil war, Edouard had taken shelter in the hotel with other Tutsis. Militias, likely composed of former génocidaires, hunted them throughout the city. Edouard fled his homeland once again.
At first glance, today Goma seems a less hostile place. Entrepreneurs are establishing internet cafés and cell phone kiosks, people are smiling, and the city looks headed for prosperity, its economy buoyed by the mining industry and international relief efforts centered here. But when I inquire about climbing the volcano outside Goma, Edouard and others at MHI quickly squash the idea, and remind me that interahamwe militias reign in the forest just beyond the city limits.
Even in the city itself, where the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo, MONUC, asserts a strong presence from its compound, I began to recognize signs of underlying tension within my first few days. Walking back from the internet café one day last week, I stopped to gawk as a large diesel truck rumbled through the streets with wild music blaring. The truck's sides bore no official insignia, and young men in plain clothes—not uniforms—stood in the open-top bed, each clutching an AK-47 or rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) launcher.
This afternoon I saw another of these unmarked militias, which roared through town in two large trucks. I scampered to the roadside with the other pedestrians, and didn't dare to point a camera at them, gun shy as I already am after yesterday’s events.
Yes, I need to write all about that. Continued in next entry!