Letter from Bujumbura (Burundi)

Life in Bujumbura goes on without too many incidents. There are still stability problems in the country but, at the moment, there are no armed conflicts, which here is good news.

Lately I am travelling more, seeing and identifying new needs. My last trip was to Nord Kivu the most north eastern province of Congo. One of the main reasons to write these lines is to tell you what is going on there.

Nord Kivu is currently one of the two or three worst parts of Africa. The situation is very complicated, with many actors in the conflict: to begin with the re unified Congolese Army after the democratic elections held in 2005, but still has no respect for human rights. On the other hand, the FDLR, made up of the so called Iterhamwe (Hutus Rwandese who escaped from their country after the 94 genocide and who are accused of having actively participated in the extermination). In addition, there are the troops loyal to General Nkuda, made up of Tutsis, who according to independent sources have the arms support and supply from neighbouring countries.

Thje Nkuda troops do not accept to integrate in the Congolese Army, demand the disarmament of the FLDR and the repatriation of all its members to Rwanda and in addition have certain sovereign aspirations over the area. Lastly, the May -May. Popular defence armies, arisen in the 90s against invading foreign troops in the area. The May-May has not integrated in the army, do not accept government authority and fight on their own. They are located in Nord Kivu and fight the troops of General Nkuda.

It is a mosaic difficult to understand since no part trusts the other. Imagine how difficult it is to find peaceful solutions between two armies, all the more when there are four that are shooting one another constantly...

The result is that, 10 days ago, when I was going through Goma, the capital of Nord Kivu, the image produced the greatest impact I have had since I am here. The city is full of people who come running away from war. In the outskirts the are four camps for displaced people, with around 50.000 thousand people. In the province 800. 000 people have run away from their homes. There, life, as you can imagine is extremely hard; people are heaped up, families living in huts of sticks and greens, the size of two square metres with no roof in the rainy season. At least the UNHCR is taking efficient steps, providing drinking water deposits and temporary health centres at the camps.

This time the UN is moving quickly. I am also sending you some pictures of one of the displaced camps in the outskirts of Goma. They were difficult to take because in this area of armed conflict it is forbidden to take pictures without special permission, and the area was full of military. The hardest is not the images, but the amount of people in this situation. The equivalent of double Valladolid's population is currently living in these conditions. The four armies are free to do what they like and there are dozens of dead almost every day and according to the UN, a thousand women are raped every day in the area. Can you imagine this?

I thought I had to tell you this because in the Spanish media it is not given much importance and all this is going on here and now...

My best regards to all