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Democratic Republic of Congo bishop warns violence could spiral into genocide

09 March 2018


A priest prays outside Notre-Dame Cathedral, in Kinshasa, DRC as part of church-led demonstrations against the President, Joseph Kabila, last month. At least two people were killed and dozens more were injured when security forces cracked down on the demonstrations

A priest prays outside Notre-Dame Cathedral, in Kinshasa, DRC as part of church-led demonstrations against the President, Joseph Kabila, last month. A...

THE latest outbreak of violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) could spiral out of control and become a genocide, the Bishop of Boga, the Rt Revd Mugenyi William Bahemuka, has warned.

At least 33 people died in the north-eastern Djugu territory, and 1000 houses were razed to the ground during violence last week, the United Nations Refugee Agency said. It estimates that more than 22,000 people fled the clashes between Hema herders and Lendu farmers in Ituri province.

Conflict between the two groups has been simmering since December, and, since New Year, more than 42,000 Congolese refugees have fled into neighbouring Uganda to escape. Cholera outbreaks have now been confirmed among some of the refugee communities, Médecins Sans Frontières has reported.

Bishop Bahemuka said that it was difficult to determine what the root cause of the conflict was. “Is it a planned insurgency that will turn out to be either a civil war or a genocide?

“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 a 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.”

Between 1997 and 2003, up to six million Congolese died in a civil war, either as a direct result of fighting or from disease and malnutrition.

The Archbishop of Canterbury has urged the Government to use its influence on the UN Security Council to reinforce UN troops in the DRC, “to find ways of serving the poorest and most desperate of that region”. Speaking in the House of Lords, Archbishop Welby said that he had spoken to the Archbishop of Congo this week, and was reminded that “the war has created two million refugees who are now living in conditions of immeasurable suffering, and four million casualties over the past 20 years.”

Last month, Archbishop Welby joined the Pope in calling for a day of prayer and fasting for South Sudan and the DRC , and asked Christians to pray that “these terribly suffering populations will know peace” (News, 2 March).

The mutilated body of a Roman Catholic priest, Fr Florent Mbulanthie Tulantshiedi, was discovered last week in the central Kasai district of DRC. Fr Tulantshiedi, of the Joséphistes Congregation, worked in the parish of Christ the Savior, Ilebo. A preliminary investigation suggested that he had been strangled.

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