Kill me, but tell me who you are. Plunder and terror in Eastern Congo

Lake Kivu near Goma(photo Koert Lindijer)

Aurélien Kambala in the north-eastern Congolese city of Butembo is preparing himself for his role as an election observer on Sunday*. The father puts his work aside when Moise Paluki comes by to tell his story. He wants to embrace Moise Paluki, but an Ebola epidemic in the region forbids such compassion. Consolation is no longer allowed. His visitor tells him how militia fighters killed his eldest son last week and set fire to his truck loaded with peanuts. “I have nothing left, how do I continue with my life”, laments Paluki, “and imagine, I do not even know who the perpetrators are”.

The inhabitants in the north-eastern region are desperate. For years they have suffered the terror of numerous armed groups. On top of that came Ebola. The violence in this wooded agricultural region began in 2014 and already led to 2000 civilian deaths and 200,000 more displaced. Who the perpetrators are and what motivates them is unclear. The UN soldiers of a peacekeeping force also often wonder who their enemy is, but they do observe the connections of the militias with politicians. Using the disorder, neighbouring countries and Congolese politicians, smugglers and tribal chiefs set up the fighting groups for their own interests. In fertile Congo with its numerous mineral resources, war is more profitable than peace – at least for a small group of profiteers. Congo is a place to plunder, since the Belgian king Leopold to Mobutu and then from Mobutu to the Kabila’s.

“Kill me, I do not care anymore,” Moise Paluki mourns as he raises his hands to an imaginary attacker, “but tell me who you are, and why you want to kill me!”

The chaos rages throughout Eastern Congo, as well as in the central region of Kasai. Virtually nowhere in Africa is the gap between citizens and rulers so distressing.

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On the Somali coast you never know who are the good and who are the bad guys

The Castilla(Photo Koert Lindijer)

The admiral on the pontoon bridge focuses his binoculars on a speck in the blue-green sea. The Spanish warship the Castilla stops. Special forces climb with a rope ladder on starboard to rubber boats on the high waves and speed away to the wooden fishing boat. It is called a ‘friendly approach’ in the jargon of the anti-pirate operation Atalanta on the Indian Ocean. However, the Somalis on the fishing boat anxiously put their hands in the air.

When boarding, the Spanish soldiers on deck stumble over a shark and a tuna and their shoes get stuck in the nets. “We have a good catch”, head fisherman Hamdi Saleh welcomes them. The eight-person crew dressed in sarongs nods in agreement. “That big ship of yours brings peace,” says Saleh. Everyone gets a T-shirt with the inscription of the European Union’s anti-Pirate brigade, the Navfor. They also get a bottle of water and a carton of cigarettes.

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