ABSTRACT

The conflict in DR Congo is undoubtedly one of the deadliest since the Second World War,1 and even after peace agreements and the 2006 elections the fighting has continued in Eastern Congo and the province of North Kivu in particular.2 Even the establishment of the world’s largest peacekeeping force, the United Nations Organisation Stabilising Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUSCO) has not been able to stop the conflict.3

In fact, as recently as late autumn 2012, the rebel group M23 were in control of the provincial capital of North Kivu, Goma for 11 days. It is not easy to understand why a mission that costs about one billion US dollars annually and has a force of about 20,000 peacekeepers could not do anything to prevent the rebel advance. However, there are reasons for this. The most important being that the conflict, and particularly the one that still continues in North Kivu, is an immensely complicated conflict; it is multi-layered and involves many actors with different interests (see Prunier 2009). It was here, along a dusty road leading out of Goma (the provincial capital

of North Kivu) towards Sake that I came across the small girl already mentioned in the Introduction. She was looking lost, vulnerable and invincible at the same time. Her eyes fixed on the constant flow of refugees heading into town, but not like she actually was searching for someone; a mother, a father or a relative. It was like she was seeing, but not seeing at the same time, as if her eyes saw something else in the distance instead: a ‘world’ of other possibilities, or maybe she had just given up. But it did not look like that, and even if I never saw her again as we had to move on as my driver was getting increasingly nervous by the stones thrown at us by frustrated people who directed their anger towards anyone that to them represented an international community completely unable to protect them despite funding the largest peacekeeping force in the world, she clearly touched me and continues to touch me from a distance, and to me she has come to represent the resilience of Goma and its inhabitants. It is the invincible city.