Rutshuru shelled; Nkunda on the looseBack in November, we took a trip to Rutshuru, a town 45 minutes north of Goma in North Kivu, to observe a disarmament ceremony in which the UN and the 5th integrated FARDC brigade accepted the surrender of about 250 Mayi-Mayi guerillas. This came after the first 'succesful' joint UN and Congolese operation in Virunga National Park, where armed groups had been sheltering in the wilderness and abusing the local population.
Since then, things have been grim: Rutshuru was shelled and a renegade Tutsi general, Laurent Nkunda, is starting trouble again. It seems that the valorous 5th brigade, whose lack of training was apparent even to this inexperienced observer (though they had a great repertoire of martial hymns), collapsed under the assault of a much-smaller rebel force. It's possible many of them are still loyal to Nkunda. The fighting seems to threaten the Indian base there-- I can only hope that the friendly officers who showed us around are keeping safe behind the wire.
When we were there I also met an interpid young journalist of Radio La Colombe-- a tiny station and the only one operating for miles. He was wearing a Bob Marley t-shirt and a Rasta hat of black nationalist colors... in the footage it's totally jarring when he pops up in front of the green-fatigued troops. It looks like he may have been in serious trouble, as well.
I can't really get in touch with anyone. It's a bad feeling...