When Justin Katenga arrived at Matebe power station at dawn, the fighting was already under way. He had woken up a few miles away, in the headquarters of Virunga national park in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), to the sound of heavy artillery echoing across the valley, underscoring the urgency of the evacuation planned for civilian staff in the facilities across the river from the frontline.
As Katenga entered the plant’s perimeter with his team, bullets whistled above their heads, lodging in the buildings’ walls; one engineer fainted in fear on the spot. Katenga, the deputy south sector warden of the park, took time to talk to the guards who had stayed behind to secure the site. The M23 rebel militia – fighting government forces in the area – had been gaining ground and were expected to break through and overrun that section of the park. Yet abandoning it would cut off 80% of the power supply to Goma, the capital city of North Kivu province and home to 2 million people.