BY Consultant in the Field

SECURITY UPDATE: Goma as at 7/12/12

INSI has been in touch with journalists and locals on the ground and this is what they are telling us.

General comments

EXTREME CAUTION SHOULD BE EXERCISED IF TRAVELLING TO GOMA

The Congolese M23 rebels have now left the city of Goma in the DRC. The rebels have agreed to hold peace talks with the Congolese government led by President Joseph Kabila in Kampala.

Bertrand Bisimwa, the spokesman for the M23 political branch, said the group will go to Uganda for talks in the next few days.

Congolese government policemen are controlling the central bank, the governor's office and the border post. It is thought that more than 270 Congolese policemen have arrived in the city port on the lake, as part of the transition.

It has been reported that the rebels had pulled back to a 20km (13 mile) buffer zone around Goma, but other reports suggest that they were still just outside the town.

HEALTH AND HYGIENE IN GOMA

During the fighting, the electricity was cut off but it appears to have now been restored. However, powercuts in Goma are not uncommon, so take plenty of torches.

Water is not clean and extreme caution must be exercised when drinking water, even bottled, as well as hygiene of hands.

The water supply does not appear to have been affected.

GETTING INTO DRC

Visas are still required to get into DRC. You still can not get it at the border.

If you have a visa, you can move backwards and forwards across the border without any problems. It is not known at this time whether a “facilitation” fee may be paid to bypass the visa system.

GOMA AIRPORT

The accord had stipulated that the M23 would leave behind 100 soldiers to guard the airport in conjunction with a UN contingent and a government unit.

It is unclear who is in complete control of the international airport, a strategic location as it is a vital lifeline for business and aid flights. It is not recommended to take flights at this time.

GOMA TOWN

M23 is threatening to retake Goma if their demands are not met. DR Congo troops have moved into Goma and dozens of government army trucks, crammed with heavily armed soldiers, were seen entering the town after trundling along the shores of Lake Kivu.

A battalion of around 600 men in total was expected to move into Goma; this can not be verified at this time.

While the M23 fighters have left the city, rebels remained camped just beyond the outskirts, appearing to break the deal to pull back 20 kilometres from Goma.

There is a strong possibility that there will be renewed clashes between the two sides.

WORKING OUTSIDE GOMA

Since the M23 is camped outside Goma and with the DR Congo army are now in Goma, there is huge potential for renewed fighting. Moving outside Goma unless you have local contacts is not recommended. There are still reports of sporadic gunfire and a high risk of getting caught in crossfire.

Extreme caution should be exercised if choosing to work outside Goma.

JOURNALISTS

Journalists are always advised to stay on the main roads and if they go into smaller residential areas, know how to get out.

INSI can not recommend that journalists travel at night in this area nor take local motorbike taxis.

Reporting is always difficult because of poor telephone lines and no internet.

The general consensus is that western journalists are still able to operate freely.

Commanders of M23 can still be interviewd in Goma or Rutshuru, which is where their HQ can be found. They have moved on to Kibumba (25 kms to the north of Goma) so interviews may take place there.

Journalists must still get or have an accreditation to work in Goma.

Contact INSI if you require an equipment list or further information for working in hostile environments.


Note: INSI has collated this information from journalists on the ground. It has checked it authenticity as much as it can, however can not take any responsibility for ensuing problems as a result of this information.

Photo: Two MONUSCO UN soldiers stand guard in Goma's port as Police Nationale du Congo officers who fled Goma when M23 rebels took over the city Nov. 18 2012, return on a barge to the port of Goma, eastern Congo, Friday Nov. 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Jerome Delay)