Saturday, November 1, 2008

DR Congo 5.4 Million Dead

I don't know if you follow international news, but you need to pay attention to what is happening in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The events taking place there are part of one of the greatest ongoing human disasters of our lifetime. In the past decade 5.4 million Congolese have died because of the ongoing civil war.

Right now the city of Goma in eastern Congo (right on the border of Rwanda) is in the news. This isn't the first time Goma has been in the news. In 1994, 1 million refugees from Rwanda settled into Goma. I remember it well because I was in those camps in 1995. Goma made the news again in 1997, when a civil war swept through the city and the surrounding refugee camps. Thousands were killed and the refugees were driven out of the camps, into the bush and back across the border into Rwanda.

Goma is a very dreary city. It is at the base of a chain of volcanoes and the town and surrounding countryside is the charcoal colour of the lava that has so often flowed from those volcanoes. In 2002 Mount Nyiragongo erupted and Goma made the news again. This time the lava flow went right through town. I remember walking around a church in Goma. It was 'V' shaped with the point of the 'V' facing the volcano. It was explained to me that the church was built this way so that the lava would flow around it - it didn't work. The church along with most of the city was wiped out.

Goma continues to periodically make the news because of the ongoing civil war. It is in the news again, because the war has intensified. What is tragic is that no one seems to care about the 5.4 million people who have died in the past decade. I can't think of a greater tragedy - Darfur?, Korea?, Burma?, Somalia? - even Rwanda didn't see this level of unnecessary death.

I travelled through Goma, Nynkundi, Likati, Bunia, etc. and what breaks my heart is that many of the people I met are dead, their homes pillaged, the women raped and nothing has been done.

Shame on us!

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