DR Congo

DR Congo: North Kivu - Missionaries remain in Goma

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"We are not leaving. How could we? There are still 350 children here, 70 of these are less than three years old and there is nobody to take care of them. It would even be impossible to take them away from the city. We are staying and we trust the situation will improve": so said the Salesian missionary Mario Perez, director of the Don Bosco center in Goma, to MISNA in a terrible day, when MONUC asked foreigners to head toward gathering areas in preparation for a possible evacuation. Meanwhile, even as rumors of a CNDP rebels' ceasefire abound, during our telephone conversation with father Perez we could clearly hear the sound of sporadic gunfire. Don Perez,who is aided by a Congolese fellow brother, said that five volunteers from the Salesian NGO 'VIS' have also decided to stay with the children and the center's staff. Father Tommaso Barbona of the order of the Carocciolini also shows no hesitation to stay: "I do not feel expatriated, I am not a foreigner", he said, speaking from the college and seminar in the area of Kyfhero, near Lake Kivu, where 33 novice live, who were joined by a few dozen people seeking shelter over the past few hours. Meanwhile, the flow of refugees from Rutshuru has slowed its march as night falls: "people are dropping their belongings on the ground, men and women cut wood to light fires and to cook" said a source from Nyamilima, about 40 km. north of Rutshuru, whose home is right along the road crossed by the refugees. The source said that the government soldiers have been ordered not to head out too far, even if there is tension among the troops. "There has been an uninterrupted flow of people fleeing; many are heading toward Uganda, which is but 20 km. away...Thousands will spend the night here, even in the parish's churchyard and in other religious facilities, at dawn they will take up the path again"[AB]