People of Goma look for change after rebels seize the city

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FARDC soldiers sit in a military truck in Minova, west of Goma
FARDC soldiers sit in a military truck in Minova, west of Goma Photo: Goran Tomasevic / Reuters

Food is in short supply. The power is off. The central bank has been looted.

Forty trucks - filled with much-needed supplies - sit stacked up outside the town, their drivers unable to afford the new $400 ‘truck tax’.

The prison has been emptied of hundreds of inmates who escaped under the cover of the chaos.

Fifty horrendously wounded people, half of them women and children, lie in the crowded wards of the local hospital.

A makeshift shelter overlooking Mugunga IDP camp, outside of Goma
A makeshift shelter overlooking Mugunga IDP camp, outside of Goma Credit: James Akena / Reuters

This is the city of Goma, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the corpses have been cleared, but the mayhem endures.

A rebel army, called M23, seized the provincial capital a week ago, defeating the hapless Congolese army. The helpless United Nations peacekeepers, ‘the tourists’ as some residents call them, stood by and watched.

The invading fighters want to overthrow the democratically-elected government. Their great enemy is President Joseph Kabila, who they believe to be corrupt and ineffective. Their great supporter, according to a UN report, is Rwanda, which is accused of arming the invading rebels.

And yet, despite the destruction and disorder, many of the people of Goma seem hopeful.

This was a place destroyed by conflict and corruption long before the battles of the past few days. And after crashing through the city, the rebels arrived with the promise of a new beginning.Residents gather close to the lakeside hotel which M23 has turned into its operational headquarters, to hear their promises of stability, prosperity, water and electricity.

The people of this city might be amongst the most mistreated people in Africa, and have suffered the brutal fallout from numerous invasions over recent years. They are hungry for change, whoever can offer it.

Today, the government has once again ordered the rebels to leave. Many Gomans want them to stay.