Captain’s Log-28 November 2012-Bunia Violence as Goma Falls to Rebels

The MONUSCO club with burnt out UN vehicle out front.   Best steak in town. We watched the World Cup Football there and often ate there.

It has been an interesting week.  I wish I could tell you all of it, but it’s just not possible.  Cher and I had gone to Uganda to do a big maintenance operation on the Caravan.  We had the tail feathers off, the landing gear, the engine and engine mounts, the wings, and the whole interior out of the fuselage.  It was really torn to pieces.  Probably not the best of timing for this to come due because the rebel group, M23, down in North Kivu province was working its way toward Goma, the provincial capital.  I know, Congo only gets little strips across the bottom of your TV News channel while other stories are actually on the bigger bit with the picture.  But it is a real war going on here with tanks and helicopters shooting rockets and all.  Anyway, M23 finally took Goma.
For those of you following the blog, my sister Lu, who lives and works in Rumangabo, the Virunga National Parks headquarters, has been evacuated out to Goma for a while because of fighting and the M23 presence in the park.  When Goma fell to M23 she had to make tracks across the border to Gisenyi, which was only a couple hundred meters away in Rwanda. The towns run together almost as one and the airports are parallel to each other so that occasionally, on smoky days, I have thought I was lined up to land at Goma but was closer to Gisenyi.
There is a lot to that story, which is far from over, and you should follow it online, but it also had it’s fallout on us in Bunia.  It is perceived that the UN did not do enough to help in the battle for Goma, and so in cities all over Congo people rioted.  In Bunia, the UN’s HQ right in town was attacked with buildings and vehicles stoned, vehicles and other things burnt and the offices and even homes of UN workers and NGOs looted.  As a result, it seems there are now 5 shot dead and 11 wounded from the rioting.   It was pretty terrible.

Outside UN organizations like UNHCR and UNICEF lay a pile of burnt motorcycles, typewriters, wheelbarrows, and things to destroyed to recognize. Much was looted.

Our families were evacuated out under some quite exciting and stressful circumstances.
I went back in to Bunia to help with evacuations and to be on the ground to evaluate the security situation daily as well as keep flying.  There were quite  lot of the NGO’s people stuck in one of the UN bases where they had fled for security who were very anxious to get out, and we organized MAF-Uganda to get many of them out.  Like I say, it was a bad time to have our plane torn apart for maintenance.  But we were able to help.
I had a bit of excitement on Thursday when I inadvertently came upon a firefight.  Maybe 50 meters away shooting broke out right in front of me.  The guards at both our office and a MAF house I had just left right across the street, witnessed the scene and were pretty impressed with my driving skills.  They said they’d been very scared for me and hadn’t known a vehicle could go so fast in reverse.  I circled around town a long way out of my way to get home from the other direction.  One of the motorcycle taxi men on the way said, “You must go home!”  I told him I was trying to get there but the shooting was in my way.  I think he actually meant I should leave the country, thinking I was UN related.  Right now, it is not good to be considered either UN or complicit with the UN.   The church people have really stood up for many of the mission workers.  For the time being all MAF wives and children are being hosted by friends and co-workers in Uganda.
Feel free to pray for us here.  We need a lot of wisdom in times like this.

Another burnt vehicle next to UN properties. Even local people working for UN were looted.

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15 Responses to Captain’s Log-28 November 2012-Bunia Violence as Goma Falls to Rebels

  1. Kathy Love says:

    My computer has been down ,, I didn’t know you had endured any of this.. so sorry Jon and Cher.. I hope you didn’t lose any of your belongings.. Did your sister make it ok?..

  2. You are in our prayers in Bangalore, India, and candles lit for your safety and wellbeing…and Buddhist prayers sent from Nepal up in the Himalayas…be well,
    Victoria

  3. Dan says:

    Jon,
    You and Cher and all the other MAF staff are in my thoughts and prayers. I followed the events as best I could and am really saddened by all of it, but also angry.
    Anyway, I plan to come back to Bunia in late January or early February, and hope to find you there.
    Best,
    Dan

  4. Rich Carlson says:

    Dear Jon. Wow, I did not realize the situation currently was so stressful. We will pray that the Lord protects you and your honey. Is there actually anything the UN is doing that is positive there? We hear about the UN wanting to start a Palestinian State, but little else. Hugs Rich and Marti

    • Jon says:

      Hi Rick, They had the best restaurant in town but that is no more. Seems they are always a little and late in responding but they do have a bit of a cap type of effect on violence. May feel a different when the bail me out of some disaster. Thanks for your prayers We can use them. Jon

  5. Ramiro Quevedo. says:

    My God! Cuando terminará el horror? Take care.
    Thanks.

  6. Crissie Rask says:

    You all, and the people of Congo are in our thoughts & prayers.

  7. Paul White says:

    Jon, I have been keeping abreast of the situation as much as I can. I have not read so much for years, thanks to the Internet. You are right that DRC does not get much coverage on the TV, just a couple of days worth. Your update was very informative. If you get more news of how things are out there, I would appreciate you adding it to your blog. This way I know the news is not biased. Most of all Jon, stay safe and keep away from the fire fights ! Take care all of you.
    Cheers
    Paul

  8. James says:

    Thanks for sharing brother! I love your blog and pray one day (when I retire from the military) I can do what you do with MAF. My family is praying for you, your family, and for all involved in this conflict. Stay safe and God bless.

    • Jon says:

      Hey James, thanks for the prayers. Tell my more. When do you retire? MAF always needs more good guys, Jon

      • James says:

        Oh I have 9 years left unfortunately but it’s time I’m not going to waste. I’ll be starting my Commercial rating here after the beginning of the year. My plan and what I feel The Lord leading me to is to stay in the Army, go through my CFII and get all the flight time I can while I’m working towards retirement from the Army. I have 11 years in army aviation maintenance and already have my A&P so flight time is where I’m trying to focus. The Lord has opened doors for me to make this happen and from day one he’s put MAF and flying for Him on my heart. I really enjoy your blog and it gives me great encouragement to see the work you’re doing. God bless, and keep the shiny side up!

  9. Jeff Turcotte says:

    Thank Jon,

    We will keep you in prayer.

    Jeff

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