GOMA, DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO — Conflict has been a constant here for more than 20 years.
The sources of the conflict are multiple and complex. The country is rich in natural resources including gold, diamonds and coltan, a substance used to make smartphones, and armed groups fight to control those resources.
Rwanda’s 1994 genocide continues to have repercussions here. That country’s porous border with DRC gave way to millions of people who fled when the Hutu regime was overthrown in 1994. Since then, tensions often erupt into full-blown conflict here.
In February, more than 20 people were slain in a new wave of killings between Hutu and Nande people living in the North Kivu province of eastern DRC. According to a statement released by the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, an additional 40 people were wounded in February violence here. Three people were raped and 70 homes were burned down, the statement says. Mass abductions were carried out by members of the Nande and Nyanga groups.
In total, more than 500 people have been killed in the Beni area since October 2014, according to the U.N.
There are more than 200 people groups in DRC, where the population exceeds 74 million, according to 2014 data from the World Bank. The eastern part of the country remains the hardest hit by the conflict, which left more than 5 million people dead between 1998 and 2007, the International Rescue Committee estimates in a widely accepted report.
People here say corruption, poverty and ongoing violence are among the reasons why progress has stalled.
Global Press Journal asked people in Goma, a city in eastern DRC, how they feel about the future of their country.
“From my point of view, there will never be peace in our country. I often travel to Butembo for business purposes, and not a single month goes by without cases of killings, robbery or kidnapping being reported. This is why it is difficult for me, as a Congolese citizen, to hope for peace.”
— Jeannette Amina, 30, a small trader, referring to a town north of Goma
“If one day authorities choose to heed people’s concerns, Congo will get a chance for a better future. The problem is that some authorities are exclusively concerned with their own interests while they should concern themselves primarily with their citizens’ interests.”
— Valens Ocsar Amani, 33, a driver
“Today, I continue to live in poverty as a result of insecurity. I hope one day my present suffering will ultimately come to an end. Heaven alone knows how to help get peace in our country back on track. We, as moms, are actually going to pray for a better future, because if we don’t, nobody else will.”
— Speciose Ushindi, 45, a small trader
“I am confident that one day turmoil will come to an end, but for this to happen we must have strong leaders. But we Congolese people also need to unite instead of killing each other merely because of our ethnic differences.”
— Dieu Merci, 30, moto-taxi driver
“I hope one day war will come to an end and that peace will come. There is a time for everything and I’m sure my country will have a better future.”
— Eustache Minani Bahiga, 49, a teacher
“Personally, I think that even today we live in peace because God the Supreme King who reigns over all dwells in our hearts. God’s always there for us and will always protect us.”
— Jean Marie Shabade, 35, a small trader
“Congo’s future will be better if we eradicate poverty among the youth. That’s because young people are the future of Congo. Youths often indulge in criminal activities because of unemployment. But if the government provides employment opportunities to them, Congo will have a successful future.”
— Richard Kasereka, 27, university student
“Authorities must first show love and respect to God for God to give them wisdom to govern our country in order for us to have a brighter future. But also we need politicians to engage in dialogue with opponents to reach an agreement. Otherwise, we will remain engulfed in endless conflicts.”
— Sadiki Ndayundi, 34, chef
“There will be no peace until Congolese people refrain from fighting for power. We as Christians must therefore pray for the future of our country. Otherwise, we see our future dim unless God does a miracle.”
— Aline Kanyere, stay-at-home mother
“I am pessimistic about the future. Our country will have a better future only if we who used to make our living from farming can return to our villages. Personally, I think a brighter future will remain a pipe dream in the absence of a good harvest. Our authorities should make our villages safer before we return to our homes and dig our fields. If not, my future and that of my children will be tinged with misery. I would like to be able to return to my village to grow corn and beans, but I will continue to suffer as long as insecurity persists, because today selling pineapples is my only source of income. Every single day, I’m worried about not finding food and I am scared about the future.”
— Gaudence Nyirambabazi, a small trader
Ndahayo Sylvestre, GPJ, translated interviews from French and Swahili.
Dieu Merci requested that his last name not be published.