•Officials, residents laud “historic” peace momentum
GOMA – Hundreds of Congolese in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) north eastern provincial town of Goma yesterday expressed satisfaction amid preparations for today’s historic event – the farewell ceremony of Rwandan troops.
Rwanda Defence Forces (RDF) are expected to pull out of the DRC after a month-long joint operation with their Congolese counterparts against the FDLR/Interahamwe militias.
Determined not to miss out on the preparations, the massive and buoyant crowd thronged Stade Ozacaf area in the centre of town where the festivities will be held today.
The preparations were supervised by the joint FARDC-RDF operations Commander, DRC’s Lt. Gen. John Numbi himself.
“It is a big day for me because a lot of people have been talking ill of the operation– saying that Rwandan forces had come to steal minerals and other things, that they were coming for occupation and would not withdraw one day,” Gen. Numbi told The New Times as he carried on with the supervision. He firmly underscored that it was why he had come to supervise the preparations himself.
“Everybody must know that this relationship between Rwanda and Congo is very strong!”
Apart from the cheerful gathering and numerous joint FARDC-RDF officers, senior Congolese Government officials were present and equally upbeat about the current encouraging relationship between the two neighbouring countries.
One such official was President Joseph Kabila’s Senior Advisor in charge of infrastructure – Kimbembe Mazunga. Speaking to this reporter, Mazunga underscored the need for “peace first of all.”
“Rwanda and Congo must be together, their people must try to be together in order to overcome all the issues for development,” he noted, and reiterated that “you cannot develop Congo without being in good relationship with Rwanda and vice versa.”
“So, my feeling now is that the two peoples are looking in the same direction. They know that the important thing for both Rwandans and Congolese is peace,” he observed.
Shortly after, The New Times also caught up with North Kivu’s Minister for Public Works and Infrastructure Norbert Mahali Kitsa who also concurred.
“Peace and good relations with neighbours is a must and all will be done to ensure that it prevails”, he underlined.
As both countries’ army bands thrilled the crowd, more Goma citizens abandoned their regular activities to watch the impressive proceedings, all in practice for the real event today.
A bigger gathering is expected to assemble for the ceremony to bid farewell to the Rwandan contingent of the just concluded and “successful” operation Umoja Wetu which saw over 3000 Rwandans including FDLR elements repatriated. Locals in the crowd were similarly jubilant.
Gilbert Bashizi Safari, a Goma resident said that his hopes for peace were high.
“This is very good and we are very happy to see that our two countries who are even neigbours are cooperating,” he said, adding that “peace is really a must” not only for development but other good things as well.
Eugene Muisa, a trader, also reinforced the general opinion.
“I really appreciate the way our two armies, our army and the army of Rwanda have strived to find peace and, us citizens, we are behind them,” he emphasized,
The same message was echoed by Charles Lugano, a journalist of Radio Kivu 1 in Goma.
“All is very well because, you know, we had never seen this happening before. Neigbours must always sit together, live together, but we have been seeing it appear as if Congo and Rwanda were far apart – which is no more.”
“We have now seen the two armies stay and work together and for me, this brings me happiness and shows me that we are headed for better things,” he said.
“Look at Goma residents; I think you can see the way in which they have abandoned work to come here. People say they are very happy and that it will give them an opportunity for better relations between Congo and Rwanda.”
High-level delegations from both countries and the diplomatic corps are expected to officiate at the ceremony today.