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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Fast forward 8 weeks - A new war in Congo?

The internet 'cafe' I find myself in is hot, though not as hot as the streets just beyond its doors. At the moment, the refuge the cafe provides from the salty, humid coastal air is a welcome relief. I'm a sweaty, (and I assume) smelly mess right now, as I have been for the past couple of days and will continue to be for at least another day or two. The coastal hotel I stayed at for the last two nights on Diani beach had no fresh water - that meant showering witht the sea-salt water that ran through it's pipes and the night before had been spent on the overnight train from Nairobi to Mombasa, which meant no shower either. But for now, cleanliness is pretty much the least of my concerns...
This is wasn't exactly how I imagined doing this blog. Even though I've been in Africa for 2 months now, I'm way behind on my posts and have been trying to catch up, chronologically, to the present. The events of the past 4 days has changed all that.
Since the end of August I've been living in Goma, Democratic Republic of Congo, flying humanitarian missions and adjusting to life in central Africa. Six days ago, I left for my first R&R and headed to Kenya for a week of backpaking, determined to make it to the Indian ocean to do some relaxing and snorkeling. I was having a good time and things were going smoothly until I got to the coastal city of Mombasa Tuesday morning. It was in Mombasa, after getting off the overnight train, that I checked my email for the first time in a couple of days and recieved some startling news. A friend had emailed me saying there had been fighting in Goma. Apparently the rebels that reside just north of Goma in the mountains that make up the border between Rwanda and Congo had finally fulfilled the threats they have been making for the past few weeks and began their offensive on Goma. The U.N. peacekeepers had engaged them in order to hold on to the city but as far as I can tell, they have had mixed success. Civilians, in response to the fighting, or in their eyes, the lack of security that the UN provides, began rioting against the UN and have started fleeing the city. That was Monday.
As of today, the state of security, rebel advancement and who is actually in control of the city is unclear to me. Civilians, along with Congolese soldiers have been evacuating by the thousands. All of my colleagues have evacuated as well and are now scattered throughout other bases in Congo, Rwanda and Uganda. At the moment, my instructions are to fly tomorrow, as scheduled, from Nairobi to Kigali in central Rwanda. One of our planes may be arriving there tomorrow evening and so I may stay with it to help crew it or I may get moved on to Etebbe, Uganda to wait things out.
That is the extent of what I know right now. As things progress and I get more information, I'll try to post it here. Until then, pray for things to settle down and some kind of cease-fire to be achieved.

Monday's Article -

Thursdays article -

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