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Life At A Standstill As New Clashes Erupt In Congo

M23 fighters in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo
M23 fighters in North Kivu, Democratic Republic of Congo
Paul Durand

KIWANJA - On a recent weekday morning, time seemed to be standing still in this town in eastern Congo. A strange atmosphere reigns, with most of the shops and stalls closed and the town’s schools empty.

“Bullets can start flying at any time, so we let our students out early,” says a teacher in Kiwanja in the North Kivu region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. .

News of the return of the M23 rebels has spread, and though locals tried not to give in to panic, the sounds of shots being fired the previous evening convinced most residents to stay inside. “A man was shot to death, he was buried by the Red Cross,” says a neighborhood leader.

Kiwanja and Rutshuru, two towns north of Goma, the North Kivu regional capital, had been strongholds of the M23 rebels since since the anti-government forces took control of the region in July 2012. But in February, the rebels split into two rival factions and left the region, leaving entire towns at the mercy of armed militias.

Soon after, government troops arrived to try to secure the towns, and were welcomed by locals who were able to go back to working the fields. “Our lives had stopped, everything, all activities were stopped,” recalled one inhabitant.

But hopes were quickly shot down. A few days later, the army left, abandoning the towns to the warring militia groups. “We were ready to defend this region but our superiors told us to hand back the towns,” explained a government soldier.

Reports say the army was forced to hand back the towns to avoid jeopardizing peace negotiations, since an agreement reached last November stipulated that the government could not move into M23 territory while negotiations are ongoing.

Short-lived peace for locals

The confusion on the ground comes more than a year after civil strife erupted in the mineral-rich northeastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, near the borders of Uganda and Rwanda. Rebels briefly held the city of Goma in November, before withdrawing and entering negotiations with the government. Still unrest continues, and locals pay the price.

Benjamin M’ponimpa, the administrator of Rutshuru, who was installed by the M23, blames what is happening in his town on the pro-government Mai Mai militia, which is active in the region. “After the M23 left, other armed groups took over the town. Now, they want to make us look bad by blaming us for their actions,” he says.

In Kiwanja, the Mai Mai militia and the Nyatura rebel group have been fighting each other for control of the city. “After the clashes, we retrieved a dozen bodies that we had to bury,” says a Red Cross employee.

The Nyatura’s Rwandan rebel allies, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) have also taken control of central Rutshura, as well as the town of Rubare.

“When they arrived, the FDLR headed straight to the campsite that the M23 had deserted and burned everything to the ground," says a Rubare inhabitant. "Apart from that, they’re not doing any harm, we watch them as they patrol around the village.”

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Shame On The García Márquez Heirs — Cashing In On The "Scraps" Of A Legend

A decision to publish a sketchy manuscript as a posthumous novel by the late Gabriel García Márquez would have horrified Colombia's Nobel laureate, given his painstaking devotion to the precision of the written word.

Photo of a window with a sticker of the face of Gabriel Garcia Marquez with butterfly notes at Guadalajara's International Book Fair.

Poster of Gabriel Garcia Marquez at Guadalajara's International Book Fair.

Juan David Torres Duarte


BOGOTÁ — When a writer dies, there are several ways of administering the literary estate, depending on the ambitions of the heirs. One is to exercise a millimetric check on any use or edition of the author's works, in the manner of James Joyce's nephew, Stephen, who inherited his literary rights. He refused to let even academic papers quote from Joyce's landmark novel, Ulysses.

Or, you continue to publish the works, making small additions to their corpus, as with Italo Calvino, Samuel Beckett and Clarice Lispector, or none at all, which will probably happen with Milan Kundera and Cormac McCarthy.

Another way is to seek out every scrap of paper the author left and every little word that was jotted down — on a piece of cloth, say — and drip-feed them to publishers every two to three years with great pomp and publicity, to revive the writer's renown.

This has happened with the Argentine Julio Cortázar (who seems to have sold more books dead than alive), the French author Albert Camus (now with 200 volumes of personal and unfinished works) and with the Chilean author Roberto Bolaño. The latter's posthumous oeuvre is so abundant I am starting to wonder if his heirs haven't hired a ghost writer — typing and smoking away in some bedsit in Barcelona — to churn out "newly discovered" works.

Which group, I wonder, will our late, great novelist Gabriel García Márquez fit into?

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