Last weekend, I traveled with fellow Survivor Corps Africa fellows, Bryan and Laura, to Gisenyi – a beach town in Rwanda on the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo – and then to Goma. Laura did a nice job summing up our time in Gisenyi, so other than my pictures, I’ll let her words speak for that part of the trip.
Goma, however, was another world. On Sunday morning, we – Bryan, Laura, my house mate Parker, and I – crossed over the border into the Congo. The city – if you can really call it that – is covered in dried lava, litter, United Nations vehicles, and poverty. As we walked through the town, we quickly learned that there was not much to see or do other than avoid being attacked by the guy following us carrying a large rock (he threw the rock at passing UN trucks, but each time retrieved it and continued his stalking of the four muzungus).
I have done policy and advocacy work for the DRC, studied its history and current events in grad school, and have always wanted to visit. But, perhaps I had not given enough thought to the widespread poverty and the deteriorating security situation. It wasn’t until I returned that I got an email from Walter, the AP fellow living in Uvira, who told me that “visiting Goma would not be a good idea, especially since there are civilian massacres going on up there.” Our short time in Goma was not only scary, but depressing. As Goma is only one small town in a massive country experiencing these symptoms throughout, is there any hope for recovery?
There are some organizations doing great work in and on the DRC. Women for Women, which I visited in Rwanda, is also in Congo (which is where I sponsor a sister). My old organization, ENOUGH, has a bunch of interesting advocacy campaigns going on (and I have been hanging out with the coordinators of the Congo campaign this weekend, learning more about what they are doing). I will continue to support these efforts, and I know that they are making a difference, but walking through the wasteland of Goma and seeing its children with the bad fortune of simply being born there, left me feeling quite hopeless.
Posted By Lisa Rogoff
Posted Jul 24th, 2009