The M23 is located 40 kilometers from the large Congolese city and the authorities have announced this week the execution of 272 people at the hands of the feared guerrilla
It was Arturo Graf, a 19th-century Italian poet and aphorist, who said that “madness and sanity are two bordering countries, two borders so imperceptible that you can never know for sure if you are in the territory of one or the other.” in the territory of the other. This phrase finds its physical representation on the border between the Republic of the Congo and Rwanda , between the cities of Goma (DRC) and Gisenyi (Rwanda). The lines drawn centuries ago by the Europeans are blurred here as a result of the outbreaks of madness that germinate in the honeysuckle, stretching its branches to trap all the inhabitants of this frontier land and driving them crazy and healing them at the same time.
Gisenyi is a clean and welcoming-looking city. On the edge of Lake Kivu, the terraces of the bars unfold where groups of young people drink cold beer and burst into sporadic laughter. The sidewalks, clean of rubbish and properly paved, underline the nickname that Rwanda receives when it is described as “African Switzerland” , and the atmosphere is free of waste. At first glance, Gisenyi seems to have everything a thriving border town needs: a bustling market, effective customs with its impeccably dressed agents, tourism, strictly enforced regulations, and the delicious bustle of goods going back and forth. the line marking the start of RDC.
The coin cross
Goma is one of the most dangerous cities in the world. Shipments of rubbish float on its side of the Lake Kivu shore, while the bars that used to be in Rwanda are replaced by filthy jetties. Sidewalks do not exist in the city. Winding uneven dirt roads zigzag between the sheet metal shacks, flooding in the rainy months and generating veritable quagmires where children drag their bare feet with the same enthusiasm as an old man who was unable to fulfill his dreams. A million people inhabit this scenario. A first glance is enough to understand that Goma stages the resounding failure of the civilization that Belgium brought with it in shackles:the customs windows are pierced by shots, tourism here is non-existent, there is no law and order because law and order change from one day to the next, depending on what happens. And the abuses suffered by women in charge of transporting goods to both sides of the border are well known.
Goma is also a besieged city. Less than 40 kilometers away, the M23 rebels kill dozens of civilians every week, as they seek to reach the city and take it over, just as it did during a few months in 2012. Goma is today a militarized city at its best. Troops of blue helmets from MONUSCO (the United Nations mission in eastern DRC) patrol the mud in the company of Congolese troops and members of the recent mission sent by the East African Community (EAC) to stop a looming disaster , and shuffling children watch them go by with frowns, not smiling. The situation in Goma has been untenable for more than 20 years and the days where children smiled and dreamed of being soldiers when they grew up are long gone.
The hate that is breathed here is suffocating. It is a hoarse hatred embedded in their society like the remains of food in a burnt frying pan, which pays no attention to reason and allows itself to be swept away by the crowds. The inhabitant of Goma hates everything that comes from outside his desolate city. They hate the M23 rebels but also the blue berets and the Congolese soldiers and the Ugandan and Kenyan soldiers deployed in the CAO mission. They hate MONUSCO because he has been operating in his country since 1999 without his situation having improved. What’s more, it gets worse by the minute. They hate the local security forces for their ineffectiveness in defending them and they hate the African troops for their haughty attitude in dealing with them. They hate the Europeans for having built the foundations of their drama.They hate their neighbors, the Rwandans, with particular intensity , because they accuse them of financing the M23 and of stealing the gold and coltan that is extracted from the DRC. From their side of the border they observe the pristine streets of Gisenyi and his hatred throbs to the point of exploding.
June 15, 2022: An angry mob gathers in Goma to express their anger at Rwanda’s links to M23. In a moment of furious ecstasy, a Congolese high command pronounces that “if Rwanda wants war, they will have it”, and the crowd responds by rushing the border to try to enter Rwanda and stain themselves with the blood of their neighbors. June 17, 2022: a Congolese soldier enters the border area firing his machine gun in Rambo mode and wounds two Rwandan soldiers. He is struck down on the spot and bleeds to death in the line of imagination. July 26, 2022: Goma’s frustration turns against the blue berets and strong protests break out where UN soldiers are forced to open fire.The Congolese burn a military vehicle and loot the United Nations offices in the city. Three peacekeepers and at least twelve civilians die throughout the day. October 31, 2022: M23 rebels take the town of Kiwanja, 40 kilometers from Goma. The shadow of horror stretches. November 19, 2022: A Congolese soldier repeats the feat attempted by his comrade in June and dies in the same way. December 1, 2022: Hundreds of citizens demonstrate in Goma against the presence of CAO troops and in the midst of the riots, an unknown number of journalists are detained by local police to prevent them from covering the events.