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December 12, 2012, two weeks since the city of Goma in the war torn east of the Democratic Republic of Congo fell to rebel group M 23. Theoretically, the rebels have retreated from the city, enabling the United Nations and Congolese army troops back into the city to enforce an uneasy ceasefire.

The international community’s attention has shifted to peace talks under way in Uganda between Congolese president Joseph Kabila and rebel leaders, whom both Human Rights Watch and the United Nations believe are backed by Rwanda.

Yet the situation in the city remains tense and fraught, with extraordinary stories breaking daily of lives lived through siege, occupation and stalemate.

One of the rebel group’s first moves was to establish a news blackout over the city a near impossibility in the era of live blogging and satellite phone feeds. To ensure the international community does not forget about those whose lives are left hanging in the balance as negotiations regarding their futures swirl above their heads, Journalists for Human Rights, working with our partner network of journalists on the ground in Goma and Bukavu, has committed to provide regular updates from the conflict zone over the next fourteen days.

Bringing a unique local perspective to international coverage of the occupation, we aim to put a human face on Goma in crisis. What it is like to navigate a city where prisoners have been liberated from their jails. What happens to the basic functioning of the economy when all financial institutions have been shut down. How, despite a semblance of calm, hospitals are now reporting rapidly escalating incidences of rape. Key themes will range from extraordinary incidents of “popular justice,” as citizens take the law into their own hands, to the impact the invasion has had on the lives of children no longer able to go to school.

The goal? To ensure that amidst the ongoing coverage of geopolitical wrangling, accusations of blame, and minute analysis of endless communiqus from all sides, those whose worlds have literally been turned upside down are not forgotten.

Rachel Pulfer,
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Executive Director of JHR

by claire hastings edited by rachel 12/12/2012 5:33:15 PM

Setting the Scene: The Invasion

Goma, North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo. November 19th, 2012. Fighting had reached Kibumba 29 km from the city. Deafening explosions overwhelmed the city and everything had shut down. The supply of fresh food, cabbage, milk, and sugar cane, previously shipped through Kibumba to Goma, had been cut off.

Within the city, nobody knew what was going to happen.

Aircraft criss crossed the sky. Helicopters supplied by MONUSCO, the UN mission in Congo, attacked rebel positions with little success. local time, the M23 entered the city. Chaos reigned. Fleeing Congolese army soldiers shot into the air as the M23 rebel army advanced.

Fighting continued until the early afternoon. Hundreds were wounded, and some deaths were reported across the city.

The rebels installed themselves in the largest military camp, Camp Katindo. Thrown out of their homes, the wives and children of fleeing Congolese Army soldiers scattered across the city. They had no support. Those who tried to retrieve their belongings from Camp Katindo risk rape or worse.

Rebels systematically looted the belongings of Congolese army officers and all government offices, including the governor’s office. After the looting, the rebels changed all the office locks, before moving on to the central prison. Over a thousand prisoners escaped.
adidas vests Local perspectives