Goma — Residents here are preoccupied by rumours that the M23 may recapture Goma this holiday season. On the street, very few signs advertise Christmas sales. Christmas trees and ornaments still sit in shops waiting to be bought. However, not everyone has lost a holiday sense of hope.
Yes, the political climate is tense. But, no, not everyone is willing to forego Christmas. In fact, some young people RNW spoke to are so intent on celebrating the festivities, they're doing odd jobs to earn extra money for the season. Others are less concerned about finances, but no less set on fulfilling their hopes for the New Year.
"Since the whole M23 saga, money hasn't really been flowing. People have stopped buying," says Papy Inusi. The young man who runs a small retail business at the Higher Institute of Commerce (ISC) is hoping the long hours he's been keeping will maximize his potential for revenue.
"That's why I decided to start opening around 7 AM and close by 6 PM," he explains. "With the little extra money I get, I reckon I'll be able to buy some drinks to share with family and friends."
As for beyond 31 December, Papy looks forward to a much more stable Kivu. "I'm sure we will have peace," he says before thoughts return to business. He adds: "I will then be able to expand my small shop into a large food supply store."
Meschack, a young cartoonist, is also keeping busy nowadays. Wanting to make some money to celebrate the festivities, he's working more hours than usual to up the number of pieces he produces. His drawings are commentaries on the war in eastern DRC.
His hope is that 2013 is a year in which all artists will be acknowledged and appreciated.
"Preparations are not only material," insists James Nzabara, another young man from Goma. "I am preparing myself spiritually to praise the Lord for protecting me all this time. That's the most important thing for me this holiday season," he says.
Then there are other young people who are not doing anything special as the year winds down. As Joëlle Bwende says dismissively: "I don't see why we should do anything special. I'm not. These days are ordinary days, like any other day."
But Joëlle is preparing for something else. "There is a world scouts convention in Canada in 2013," she says. "My dream is to be part of the delegation that will represent my country. It will be a great step forward for the youth of Goma, who will have a voice at the conference."
And the young woman is not alone in her travel fantasies. Many other youth in North Kivu see going abroad as an escape from the instability in their province.
Regardless of their priorities this Christmas, Papi, Meschack, James and Joëlle are all doing their part to reach long-term goals. However, without peace, stability and good governance in the DRC, they may be left wishing for a while.