The situation has calmed down considerably. There is now little fighting although people remain very afraid. We are in Beni and have had an encouraging meeting with the governor of North Kivu regarding the humanitarian crisis.
Our most crucial work at the moment is working with families in the Butembo area to repatriate children abducted by the Mai-Mai.
One of the most disturbing consequences of this current crisis has been the remobilisation of Mai-Mai rebels who have once again forcibly recruited child soldiers. They are now demanding payment of one goat in exchange for the release of one child. Many families are struggling to find enough goats to rescue their children. It is very sad and we have had three members of the CRC team in Butembo negotiating with the Mai-Mai to accept anything that the families can offer in return of their children.
This morning I was finally able to make contact with the Mai-Mai commander. I am leaving today to visit him in the jungle between Butembo and Lubero to negotiate release of all the children. I had been intending to meet with President Joseph Kabila, who is visiting Beni this week, but this must take priority.
The President’s visit to our area is an encouraging sign that he is beginning to listen to local advice on how to end this conflict. The government has agreed to establish dialogue with the rebels, which is the only viable solution to resolve the violence. We have been advocating for this since the break-out of the conflict.
Thank you for all your messages of support. It has meant a lot to all of us at this difficult time.
Please keep us in your thoughts and prayers over the next two days as I visit the commander, the Mai-Mai can be very unpredictable and there is so much at stake.