Life resumes normalcy in Goma after M23 pullout By JUAKALI KAMBALE in Kinshasa | Monday, December 3  2012 at  17:18

Colonel Jean-Claude Yav of the Congolese government army (FARDC) addressing the troops at a military base in Sake, 26km from Goma, from where they were expected to move back to Goma folowing the withdrawal of M23 rebels. Photo |   AFP

Goma, the capital of DRC’s North Kivu province, is experiencing a feeling of relief after the withdrawal of the M23 rebels from the city.

Residents are keeping their fingers crossed in the hope that the ongoing peace process led by the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) will lead to a progressive restoration of peace.

“We felt like we were living in captivity during the 11 days of the rebel occupation,” Goma-based lawyer Ms Emilie Mwanda told Africa Review.

“We were not allowed to walk freely; we could also not use our cars without risking to be pulled out by the rebel troops,” she said.

Local sources say the city was significantly pillaged by the rebels during their 11-day occupation. Shops were plundered and goods stolen. So were documents and computers in government offices.

Presently nobody is sure what will be next. The Department of Police sent around 400 policemen from Bukavu in neighbouring South Kivu to replace the rebel troops maintaining security in the Goma.

The commander of the Police, Gen Charles Bisengimana, arrived from Kinshasa Sunday to boost the morale of the policemen. Local units that had not fled the city came out and assured the commander that they were ready to resume duty.

The presence of the policemen has given reassurance to the residents, according Mr Lukeka bin Miya, a Goma-based journalist.

“Shops are progressively reopening and day-to-day life is back to normal,” he told Africa Review.

He added: “For the first time, I left my house and walked around. I saw some school buses carrying taking pupils to schools. Only banks and money transfer agencies remain closed”.

Another journalist, Michel Fwamba, had opted to go into hiding throughout the duration of the M23 occupation. For him, the withdrawal was a real liberation.

“We are very relieved to see these guys leaving the city even if we do not trust their expressions of good faith. Something tells me that they are not leaving completely. I left my hiding place because I expected they had withdrawn entirely,” he said.

Mr Fwamba works for a local private FM radio called Kivu 1. He went into hiding because he learned that the invading rebels had threatened to kill him.

During the M23’s occupation, some FM radio and TV stations were forced to closed after they were accused of broadcasting pro-Kinshasa “propaganda.”

Many journalists were personally threatened for their stand against the occupation. Some had to flee the city, while others went underground.