The Second Congo War is known as the deadliest conflict worldwide since WWII. It began in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 1998 and ultimately involved 9 African countries and around 25 armed groups. Casualties were heavy, but by far the most severe cause of death was the aftermath of it. By 2004,one thousand people were dying daily from easily preventable cases of malnutrition and disease. By 2008, the war, and the immediate impact on society, had caused 5.4 million deaths and made at least 2 million people homeless.
The worst of it is, it isn’t over yet. Although a peace agreement was signed in 2002, the war has spilled out into several related conflicts, including the ongoing Lord’s Resistance Army insurgency, and the Kivu and Ituri conflicts. Pockets of heavy fighting continues in many regions of DRC, with the most frequent and severe being in Kivu – the area surrounding Goma, where Calvary Chapel Goma is situated. Ever since the country has been ravaged by war, starting with the First Congo War in 1996, it has never been able to recover. The food, housing, medical and basic needs situations of millions of Congolese are still very desperate and severe.
Proper schooling, for many Congolese, continues to be more of a luxury, and for some is still not a realistic opportunity.
As if that wasn’t enough, the situation is only being made worse by several other factors. The first is some of the worst corruption the face of the Earth has ever seen. It is common knowledge that the DRC is the richest country in the world when it comes to resources.
The country is massive – the size of Western Europe – and has rich reserves of almost every type of mineral, including diamonds, gold, and several rare metals. The DRC has the potential to enjoy astronomical wealth if only resources were protected and properly managed. Instead, the mineral wealth is what has been used to fund the ongoing wars. Armed militias have seized mines and enlisted slave labor. The government is weak, and law and order are simply not present in many parts of the country.
This has continued to be the case because it is in the interests of those with power and influence to destroy, suppress and prevent any strong, stable government. That would interfere with the easy extraction and trade of the nation’s resources. One could say that Congo’s biggest blessing has also been its biggest curse.
The second, is that many militia are continuing to use children as solders. The first person to ever be convicted by the ICC, Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, led a militia that was estimated to be made up of 30% children. In 2011, it was estimated that 30,000 children were still operating with armed groups and the UN referred to child soldier recruitment as ‘endemic.’
Today, several thousand children are thought to still be operating with armed groups.
The third is that thousands of girls and women are being sexually assaulted and raped by several militias on a daily basis. The situation is so severe that the DRC has been dubbed, ‘the rape capital
of the world.’ The Kivu conflict, in particular, has created sheer chaos and disorder in the areas surrounding Goma. This has enabled widespread sexual assault, with several incidents involving girls forced into militia forces as sex slaves. The most publicised example of this occurred in 2012, where militia troops conducted systematic rape against women and girls in Minova, DRC, over a period of three days. This resulted in widespread international condemnation, prompting the Minova Trial – the largest rape trial in history.
The fourth, is the active volcano, Mount Nyiragongo, which straddles Goma town. Eruptions in 2002 caused the death of 245 people from carbon dioxide asphyxiation and buildings collapsing due to the lava and earthquakes. Lava covered about 13% of Goma and nearly 120,000 people were left homeless. During the very recent 2021 eruption, 32 people died and at least 1,000 homes were destroyed. Residents were not given the opportunity to evacuate, due to the Goma Volcano Observatory not properly functioning for almost a year prior to the eruption. This occurred as a result of the World Bank cutting its funding to the organisation after strong allegations of corruption. This is very concerning for Goma residents, as eruptions could occur at any time and be even more severe than those in the past.
The fifth, is that Lake Kivu, whose northern shore touches Goma, is an extremely toxic lake and poses a threat to the millions of people living around it. The lake has been estimated tocontain 200 cubic miles of carbon dioxide and 40 cubic miles of methane that have bubbled in from volcanic vents. Due to the lake’s depth, the gases are trapped in layers far below the lake’s surface by the intense water pressure at those depths.- Scientists have warned it has the potential for a major, catastrophic gas (limnic) eruption at any given time, where many cubic miles of gas would be released. This could be triggered by an earthquake, volcanic eruption or landslide. Lake Nyos in Cameroon similarly accumulates and traps large amounts of dissolved gasfrom a volcanic vent at the bottom of the lake. A landslide in 1986caused the rapid release of dissolved CO2 into the air, forming a large, deadly cloud. An estimated 1,800 people in nearby villages were asphyxiated by the gas.
It is easy to see the great need for GCM to enter the DRC, especially Goma, where Calvary Chapel Goma is currently being planted. Provision of food, housing, medical care, education and other basic needs are desperately needed. Housing needs to be
in a secure environment, providing refuge from the ongoing conflicts and exploitation of children and women. At the same time, and perhaps more importantly, the community of Goma urgently need encouragement and direction. They need to be reminded of the promises in scripture for those who trust in God, e.g. Isaiah 41:10: ‘Fear not, for I am with you;Be not dismayed, for I am your God.I will strengthen you,Yes, I will help you,I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ Discipleship is absolutely crucial to this. Through GCM, the Body of Christ in Goma will receive upliftment, exhortations and comfort, while at the same time receive edification and instruction in how to respond to the corruption, abuse, violence and other evils occurring all around them.