By Eddy Mbuyi, Oxfam communications officer in DRC
I’m 27 years old and I have rarely known life without conflict, suffering, hunger, violence and disease. My country, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), has seen more than 5 million people die since 1998, making it one of the deadliest conflicts since World War Two.
Today the city of Goma is in the hands of the M23 armed group – one of many armed groups active here in eastern Congo. Fighting over the past week has forced thousands of families to leave their homes, or the camps they were already living in – they fear for their lives and have nowhere to go. I felt helpless as I watched them walk through the streets of Goma with the little that they owned on their backs. Goats, sheep and pigs followed in tow. This is the second, or in some cases the third, time in just a few months that people have had to flee their homes or make-shift shelters to find safety.
The camp Kibati, where Oxfam has been working since July to bring water and sanitation to people living there, was almost emptied overnight. Some people headed towards Mugunga, another camp outside of Goma. Oxfam went to assess the situation there yesterday, but soon had to be evacuated because of fighting in a nearby town. Today our teams are there again.
My family and I had to decide whether to leave or not. Where would we go? Would we risk losing everything? Would we be able to return home? Or would we stay in a city where nobody knows what might happen next? This is not a choice any human being should have to make but one that thousands of people in the DRC face regularly.
I decided to stay and have been bunkering down in our emergency office. I have heard the gunshots and heavy artillery outside and have learnt that my neighbours have been killed. Their home was destroyed in the fighting.
This renewed conflict is different to the many I have experienced before. I am now a dad. I have a two-year old daughter to think about. I feel guilty. Guilty that I cannot put an end to this and guarantee a safe future for her and for all the innocent children who suffer because of the violence. It is with a heavy heart that I watch her when she plays war games with other children – because I know that their games are more real than they can imagine.
I spend many nights wondering what her future will bring. Will she spend her entire life, like I have spent mine, living in a war zone? Will she ever see her country in a state of peace? I will spend tonight hoping that we will all make it through to tomorrow and that the ever-growing death toll will not rise. Goodnight.
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