By Julia Lewis, North Kivu Area Manager, Concern Worldwide
Information in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is often like a game of telephone. It’s hard, if not impossible, to pinpoint where a rumor begins, let alone how much it changed from the original source and if it had any credibility to begin with.
As the Area Manager for the international humanitarian organization Concern Worldwide in the war-torn province of North Kivu in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, distinguishing fact from fiction is a big part of my job. And in a country where security can change in an instant, acting on lies and failing to act on truth can have very real—even fatal—consequences.
Reports of a potential advance towards the provincial capital, Goma, by the M23 rebel movement started to circulate on Wednesday, November 14th. I got a call from one of our national staff who had heard that they were planning to ‘enter Goma soon,’ but was initially quite skeptical as no other source could confirm this. When I woke up that next morning, I learned that the M23 were fighting the Congolese national army, FARDC, in Kibumba, just 19 miles north of Goma. By Saturday, M23 had taken control of Kibumba. Suddenly, what seemed unlikely had become a tangible threat.