DRC: Military and wazalendo plunge Goma into hell

DRC: Military and wazalendo plunge Goma into hell

The wazalendo and their “lala salama” tax presented as responsible for numerous abuses in the encircled city.

Today in Goma, you can die for a GSM or a radio.” launches Guy-François, a “Original Gomatracian”, as he likes to present himself.

The city, capital of the North Kivu province, is now surrounded by M23 rebels.

To leave the city, you have to go by the lake and take refuge in Rwanda,” explains a Belgian-Congolese living in Goma after his entire family left the town of Saké, located about twenty kilometers further south, completely emptied of its inhabitants in the face of the advance of the rebels. “We have a small house in Goma that we have to cram into, he continues, but it allows us not to have to sleep outside. Goma today is more dangerous than Chicago at the worst time of prohibition. At night, it pulls in all directions. Every morning, we discover dead people, most of them killed by soldiers, police officers or wazalendo, these pseudo-patriots who are in reality men from armed militias.”

The videos and photos that reach us from Goma via WhatsApp illustrate this incredible violence every day. Inert bodies bathed in blood, massacred with machetes, heads cut off. “We are in complete inhumanity”, explains a priest who says to himself “very worried about the future of the country”.

“Lala salama” tax

All the testimonies point to the responsibility of men in uniform who are armed and completely abandoned by their hierarchy and by the Congolese state. “It is total anarchy, continues one of the witnesses who admits today, I don’t know if it is not better to be under the control of the M23 rebels.”

The wazalendo are accused of having imposed the “lala salama” tax (“let sleep” in Swahili) since January. “They get paid to ensure the peace of mind of traders. If you don't pay, they kill you,” explains another witness. Thursday April 11, images of young men being shot circulated on social networks. One of them was a restaurateur and refused to serve a group of wazalendo for free. He paid for it with his life.

Even the Republican Guard (GR), the elite troop of the Congolese army, which reports directly to the head of state, seems abandoned to its fate in this city which is now home to nearly 2 million souls. Some of the weapons used in these crimes and displayed by the mayor of Goma, following arrests mid-week, were models exclusively used by the GR.

The violence of men in uniform is not new in Goma where on March 5, displaced people lynched and burned a militiaman whom they accused of having raped a woman, then of having killed a displaced person who refused to be strip. But at the beginning of April, violence reached unprecedented levels.

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