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Plans Change

DR Congo, January 20, 2009

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  <span class="field-credit">
    Phil Oldham/Mercy Corps  </span>
    Mercy Corps is delivering water to displacement camps in eastern Congo. Photo: Phil Oldham/Mercy Corps

I got up at 6:30 a.m., packed my bags, ate breakfast and sent off a flurry of emails this morning in preparation for our impending journey to Nyanzale. Our departure as part of a caravan of Mercy Corps vehicles was scheduled for 10 a.m., but various meetings kept delaying that departure.

At the office, I put the items that I wouldn't be carrying upcountry in a safe. I stowed the things I would be taking in one of the vehicles.

But after a security briefing and a brief overview of Mercy Corps' operations in eastern Congo, things suddenly changed.

"I'm not going to send you to Nyanzale today," said Luke King, our country director. And there was good reason.

Earlier today, as many as 2,000 Rwandan soldiers crossed the Congolese border just north of Goma. They were apparently invited by Congo's government to assist in military operations against the pro-Hutu FDLR forces. Joseph Kabila, Congo's president, called a meeting of all ambassadors in the capital, Kinshasa, to discuss the situation.

As I've mentioned in previous journal entries, no one was quite sure what the truce between Congolese government forces and the CNDP rebels meant. Now we have a somewhat clearer picture. (Read Alertnet.org's coverage of events here.)

All travel north of Goma has been suspended for the time being. Some pretty serious security protocols are now in play. Local hotels have filled up — I will be staying at Luke's house tonight. 

For the most part, there is radio silence about what's going on outside of Goma. And to think, if we would have left on schedule, we likely would have found ourselves caught up in the gathering storm.

So, tonight, I will stand fast here in Goma. As another huge plane rumbles overhead, I am again unsure of what tomorrow will bring.

In America, today's inauguration of Barack Obama promises longed-for change. Here in eastern Congo, despite the most desperate longings of millions, it seems like things are exactly and heartbreakingly the same.