Page last updated at 15:22 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 a 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.

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

Seven people were shot last night not far from where I live.

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

The gunmen 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.

'No-one around'

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

There is currently no curfew in Goma, as such, but there is a kind of self-imposed one. Everyone stayed inside their houses and compounds overnight.

Even now, there's no-one around.

I went to the market this morning at 0900 [local time/1100 GMT] but it wasn't yet open. No-one was there.

A few civilians are walking around town but there really is a minimal movement of people and you hardly see a car or a motorbike, which is very abnormal because normally by 0600 [local time/0800 GMT], traffic is very busy.

I need to buy food for my family because of the chaos in town yesterday we couldn't go shopping. But at least we have water and electricity.


On Wednesday, all over Goma town, people were scared, running here and there, going back home to the quarters.

The situation changed suddenly in the afternoon.

The national army began passing through town crossing to the west. Between 1400 and 1600 [local time] this traffic did not stop.

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

There were many, many soldiers, tanks and other vehicles - all withdrawing from the battlefields. Some of them had even taken vehicles from civilians to move away quickly.

And then the Monuc troops [UN peacekeepers] were moving too.

And then displaced people began arriving. Everyone was entering Goma and everyone was panicking, thinking that the rebels would invade.

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

Now, today the news going round is one of confidence in the army. People are confident that the rebels will not be allowed to take Goma town. Some are even saying that yesterday's mass movement was actually on a military level - a normal shift of soldiers.

I don't know myself.

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

I worry for all the displaced people who are in desperate need.

Godefroid Marhegane is a humanitarian advocacy officer for Oxfam.

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