Now. I didn't mean to alarm anyone with yesterday's post. But. There's definitely a change in atmosphere going on, and if you were to only read the news about North Kivu from Kinshasa or the New York Times, you'd think that Goma and environs are in total chaos. That couldn't be further from the truth. I came in late last night and there weren't even a large number of soldiers out on the road guarding the house as there were last week when there was an alert. That's a good sign that things are calm.
That said, there are persistent rumors that something will happen soon. What that "something" is, no one knows. Here's the deal: the president's popularity in the east is waning, because it's been nearly a year since the election campaign, and almost nothing has changed. He took this region with 97-98% of the vote (really), but since that time, security in the Kivus has gotten worse, not better. This is due partly to the FDLR, who are the remnants of the people who committed the Rwandan genocide (and their large pack of child soldiers), and partly to the role of Laurent Nkunda, a former army general who is now a warlord who presents himself as a freedom fighter and man of the people. His reasons for being a warlord are many, but he's proven his ability to create chaos when it's convenient. He took the city of Bukavu for about a week in 2004, meaning that even MONUC didn't hold him off. He was able to do this because he's been able to persuade many regular army troops to be loyal to him and not to the government.
They're swearing that won't happen with Goma.
The president needs to stop this for political reasons, and because, well, it's generally a bad thing to have a warlord who commands loyalty from a significant number of your national army troops. Parliament apparently debated a war spending bill to address this issue. I don't know what happened with that. The big question now is who will act first. Will the army go after Nkunda, or will Nkunda attack pre-emptively? Nobody knows. He won't be able to attack Goma proper unless he goes through several other areas first, which is why I'm not terribly worried about our safety.
Saturday, June 30, is Congo's national independence day. It is hugely symbolic as the first independence celebration since Congo (technically) became a democracy. I don't think anything will happen before then. Unless Nkunda picks that day to be the one he liberates Congo from what he sees as a new tyranny.
That's all to say, don't worry. I'll be out of Goma in a week or so, and whatever happens will probably not happen in Goma. I wouldn't stay if I didn't think it was okay. My Congolese friends are much less alarmed than my expat friends, and the expats here aren't nearly as worried as those expats in Kinshasa. Everyone in Goma is just living life normally, remembering that rumors are so persistent, and hoping for the best. I have six interviews lined up for today, so I've got to run. Don't worry. Really.