- The Washington Times - Monday, January 21, 2002

GOMA, Democratic Republic of Congo Tens of thousands of people streamed back into the ruins of the smoking city of Goma yesterday, as U.N. camps set up in Rwanda to help those affected by a volcanic eruption remained deserted.
Late in the evening, parts of the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo city that had been spared Thursday's devastating lava flows from Mount Nyiragongo were teeming with people and vehicles.
Many carried the possessions with which they had fled; others bore sheets of corrugated iron salvaged from ruined houses.
Here and there a few roadside vendors sold a variety of goods: fish, meat, cornmeal, cigarettes and water.
Most shops were shut, however, and supplies of electricity and water were still off, although temporary purification plants were serving some areas.
Goma was sliced in two by a wide swath of lava that destroyed everything in its path, leaving stretches of streets half submerged in stinking black rock still red-hot at its core.
On one such smoldering stretch, bubbling with small explosions and wisps of smoke, dozens of people walked across the black crust, breaking into a run when gunshots rang out nearby.
The shots were attributed to rebel soldiers trying to prevent looting, which had become a widespread phenomenon in the city.
Although a massive U.N. relief machine has rumbled into action, none of its provisions are reaching Goma, having instead been directed to "transit facilities" in neighboring Rwanda.
Of the 300,000 Goma residents the United Nations considered to be in need of humanitarian assistance, fewer than 5,000 decided to avail themselves of the food, water and shelter offered at the two camps.
"The U.N. is extremely concerned about the security in Goma," said World Food Program spokeswoman Lara Melo, who added that many of the city's residents were returning. "People should on no account go back to Goma," she said.
The mass return to Goma seemed to be motivated both by the natural pull of home and by the residents' strong antipathy toward Rwanda, which had maintained a military presence in the city ever since it joined forces with many would say created an anti-Kinshasa rebel group in 1998.
"We just don't want to go to Rwanda. It's that simple," said a young man who wanted to identified only as Freddy. "They treat us like cows."
The United Nations is confronted with the problem of delivering aid to Goma as about a third of the 3,000 yards of Goma airport runway is under lava, as are the main taxiway and apron.
The Congolese Rally for Democracy (RCD), the Rwanda-backed rebel group with headquarters in Goma, said 80 percent of what it called "useful Goma" administrative and commercial buildings and their environs and 40 percent of greater Goma had been destroyed in the volcanic eruption.

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