Kiwandja convivium members flee rebels

29 Oct 2007

We have just received this dramatic update from Léocadie Mukamuhigirwa, leader of Kiwandja convivium in the Democratic Republic of the Congo:
“Fighting between rebels factions has moved now moved into our region of Rutshuru. There is a situation of total panic amongst locals who are fleeing towards the MOLUC (United Nations Missions in the Democratic Republic of Congo) protected zones in the cities of Kiwandja and Lamangabo. Our city, Kiwandja, is hosting more than 10,000 evacuees, many of whom are part of our convivium. The government has bought in the army in order to restore peace in the region and disarm the rebels and the situation began to calm down yesterday, with some people returning to their homes. We hope peace is near.”

The recent surrender of Kasereka, a warlord commanding some 1,000 fighters called the Mayi-Mayi, is seen as the first positive action in a year of calamities and suffering in eastern Congo. It is a small step however, with UN military sources estimating that there are 40,000 militiamen under arms, loyal to at least four political or ethnic movements, in North Kivu province alone.

On Saturday 18 alone, about 30,000 villagers stampeded away from the fighting, and the town of Rutshuru was swamped by a tidal wave of dazed and hungry farmers. Floods of terrified people are now a common feature among the fertile green valleys and coffee plantations.

“About a third of the population here is displaced by war,” said Sylvie Van Den Wildenberg, a spokeswoman with MONUC, the UN peacekeeping mission in eastern Congo. “The Congolese people are suffering like never before.”

“I am trying to be happy,” said Bahati Hagumimana, 29, a displaced farmer watching the warlord surrender from behind a scroll of razor wire. “But I still don’t trust this enough to go home.”

Source: Chicago Tribune

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