Page last updated at 18:26 GMT, Thursday, 30 October 2008

Eyewitness: 'Chaos in Congo city'

Displaced people running through Goma

Congolese aid worker Godefroid Marhegane, 58, tells the BBC News website by phone from his home in Goma, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, about the unrest there after soldiers retreated from advancing rebels.

It has been very hard. The fighting was all night long with AK-47 guns between gunmen and soldiers from the national army.

This morning when I went out I even collected some bullets in my compound.

There were also a lot of armed men taking advantage of the chaos, going around looting and forcing people to give them any money they had or their mobile phones.

It is difficult to say who they were - if they were soldiers or not - maybe they were just bandits.

None of the displaced people have access to water

Four people were shot dead last night and three badly wounded not far from where I live.

A person I know told me that he had witnessed the incident at a compound where there are sex workers living.

Apparently soldiers came wanting to be friends with the ladies; they didn't want to pay to have sex.

But the ladies kept refusing and so the men shot some of them in revenge.

Classroom shelter

The violence overnight was only in some parts of Goma town. Some quarters are very secure and alright because the national army are guarding them and are ready to shoot at anyone who disturbs.

Woman and child walking with other civilians walking behind
The situation in Goma is said to be changing by the hour

This afternoon I walked about 6km from my home to go and see the displaced people who arrived in Goma on Wednesday.

First it was difficult to reach there because there were no motorbikes or taxis and so I had to go on foot but that was actually helpful because I met some of them on the streets.

There are four groups of displaced people and most of them walked over 30km to get here carrying their chickens and a few essential belongings like blankets and herding their goats.

One group is sheltering at the Philadelphia Church of Ngangi 2.

Another group is split between two schools - Jiwe Primary School and Amkeni, which are across the road from each other. They are staying in classrooms but they cannot all fit inside.

Some others have managed to stay with host families.

But there is another group who are on the streets in the quarters. They have nowhere else to go they told me.

People were not really angry with Monuc or the army, but very disappointed

I met some mothers who were wandering all over trying to find firewood and water.

None of the displaced people have access to water. They are feeling really worried now because they have no water, no food and no hope to get food or the water.

Nothing. It is very difficult for them.


There is currently no curfew in Goma, as such, but there is a kind of self-imposed one.

People are wary and worried because of the evacuation of Monuc [UN peace mission in DR Congo] civilian personnel.

Oxfam humanitarian advocacy officer Godefroid Marhegane
Godefroid Marhegane has lived in Goma since 1994

Although, it is difficult to get a proper feeling because the situation changes every hour as something happens or some new information becomes known.

The markets have been closed all day and only military vehicles are driving around.

That may be because petrol stations are closed so there's nowhere to buy fuel and people are also afraid that if they take their car out, it will be taken by soldiers.

On Wednesday afternoon, when the national army arrived from the battlefields - there were many, many soldiers, tanks and other vehicles - some of them took vehicles from civilians to move away quickly.

They caused panic passing through town crossing to the west. Between 1400 and 1600 [local time] this traffic did not stop.

Then the displaced people began arriving - everyone was entering Goma - and everyone was scared, thinking the rebels would invade.

But in general, people here in Goma are God believers and we are continuously praying to get God's help.

People were not really angry with Monuc or the army, but very disappointed. Yes, disappointed.

Sometimes I feel sadness about all this.

I hope the situation changes and this war can be ended.

But now that darkness is coming, I worry for what might happen tonight.

Godefroid Marhegane is a humanitarian advocacy officer for Oxfam.

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