20 days, part 3

by wonderfullyrich on May 29, 2009

Part 3 of 4 which I wrote in Gisenyi while I had time and no internet. The DRC is still on my mind today as I talk about the IDP camps outside of Goma.

While in Goma, we also visited one of the six official (and one unofficial) Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps. It was a breeze through, and I felt a little sick in the heart whizzing through and seeing such a camp without spending real time or bringing real help. I’ve never seen an IDP camp. This was angering, heartbreaking, and strangely beautiful. They’ve been there in camps for several years, so children are growing up in these camps knowing a makeshift orange tarpaulin covered frame as school. “Bars” or rather places to get beer are denoted by piles of rocks propping a stick with a plastic bag as a flag. Food is in short supply right now so for part of the month, when the allotment of flour runs low, kids know that they don’t get lunch, and they stare enviously at people who do eat lunch or become hoarders of what bread they can get there hands on.

It got so bad that some time ago people from several camps “revolted” and move to a place closer to the road, where they rebuilt an unofficial camp. They moved to get better visibility, as they felt neglected. It’s become controversial as administrators aren’t willing to sanction the camp as some people might game the system. So they have to trek to the other camps to get their allotments. All in all it hasn’t worked out so well for them, but it’s indicative of the complex nature that the situation is.

Or rather that it seems, as although the political realities are complex with overtones of the continuing conflict and distinct corruption issues, the human reality is simple. These are ignored people. They matter little to the world and therefore get little help. But little still means thousands of UN, NGO, and international expats are on the ground and trying to help and are indeed helping, but still people in bad conditions and living in tarpaline covered huts with little way out.

The social structure has broken somewhat too. These people lived in villages previously, and conflicts once dealt with by the community and it’s tribal leaders, have degenerated into heated feuds. This is compounded by the corrupt nature of the police who are exacerbating the problem. As was described to me, an argument between children can escalate to adults, where it becomes a feud. Applying to the low or underpaid police for help, a $5 dollar fee is required from both parties, after which no investigation is done and the $5 dollars is pocketed. So the large fee just adds another target for the bickering and improves nothing. It’s worth noting the feed is hard to come by and precious; a dollar will buy you a kilo of potatoes and beans for a family meal.

There are several people doing something about this, the local quaker community has emplace–similar to Burundi, Rwanda, and other Great Lakes Region countries–several programs. Healing and Reconciling Our Communities (HROC), Alternatives to Violences Program (AVP), and Mediation, all of which are helping to empower the locals through the workshops and services they provide. This petty dispute which started small can end small and it’s this which is a part of the goal to reintroduced fabric of the community that was lost in the chaos and intermingling of villages. The quakers aren’t the only locals and expats trying to help, but they are the ones I visited and can report on.

The research that Angela spent the last three months on indicated that HROC was effective in helping rebuild the trust and sense of community lost during trauma inflicted through the conflict, the displacement, and return. I found it interesting that a large portion of the funding for these quaker initiatives in Goma are funded by the Norwegian government via Norwegian Quaker NGOs. It’s still there during this financial crisis, which is encouraging, but funding is still tough. Giving to aglionline.org would certainly help.

Tomorrow is part 4 of 4, or maybe 5 depending on if I can finish the last piece. It’s a digression from the stream that has preceded it, but it follows the theme that I’ve been faced with here in Rwanda.

{ 0 comments… add one now }