Photo Credit: Michael Ali / MONUSCO
In the past month, three new military bases have been established by the United Nations’ peace-keeping force in the democratic Republic of Congo – MONUSCO – in the Djugu territory of Ituri province, but it has so-far failed to stem the increasing tide of violence. Last week, 33 people were killed in an attack on the village of Maze. The Bishop of Bogo, Mugenyi William Bahemuka, has said that it is “difficult to confirm” that the recent violence is an extension of ethnic and tribal conflicts. “Is it a planned insurgency that will turn out to be either a civil war or a genocide?” he asked. “Both are situations no one would like to experience. Once again we need prayer and advocacy for peace.”
Bishop William said: “It is becoming difficult to understand the main reason of the killings in Djugu. The situation appears to be beyond control as time goes on. The Provincial and National governments keep assuring people that that situation will come to an end soon. Community leaders and politicians from the two communities claim to dissociate an ethnic conflict on what is happening in Djugu.
“On the night of Thursday to Friday, the village of Maze and few surrounding villages were attacked – and this is happening after the deployment of police, the army and United Nations’ peace-keeping forces in the area. . . Who is behind all this? No answer is found yet.”
He said that past experience had led him to believe that worse was still come.
“Yesterday, I travelled from Paidha to Bunia going through Mahagi, Djugu. It was risky to have taken that route at this moment. It has allowed me to see how people are going through a real stressing and traumatic situation. The happy villages and towns of Libi, Fataki, Pimbo are almost lifeless.
“There was a movement of many people moving towards Gina, Lopa and Iga. Our taxi driver was scared and feared to stop. We pray for peace, God’s peace.”
Bishop William said that the conflict was now nearing Bunia, with many people flooding to the town from Katoto, which was recently attacked, and Mandro. “People in Bunia are very stressed and alert,” he said. “By tomorrow, if things don’t improve, there is a clear risk of Bunia being affected and that will difficult to control.”
Dozens of people have been killed in increasing levels of violence in the Ituri province since January. Homes have been burnt, many people have been forcibly displaced, and women and girls have been subjected to sexual violence.
“I am deeply shocked by this latest attack which has targeted civilians, and that the majority of the victims were women and children,” the UN Secretary General’s representative in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Leila Zerrougui, said. “I express my sincere condolences to the families of the victims and those affected by this horrifying act.
“I condemn all kinds of violence and I call on the authorities to swiftly investigate this attack and to ensure that justice if fully served. The perpetrators of these acts must be held to account.”
At the end of February, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan were the subject of an international ecumenical prayer focus, after a call for a day of prayer and fasting by Pope Francis was endorsed by leaders of other churches, including a number of senior Anglican bishops and archbishops.