FIVE girls under the age of 15 were among 16 civilians killed in the latest attack in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. All the individuals had recently returned to their village, having previously been displaced by violence.
The attack was confirmed by UNICEF, which said that it had received more than 100 allegations of serious offences against children from the region in the past two months alone, including rape, killing, and maiming.
The attack occurred in Ituri province, where violence flared up again last December after the launch of a government-led military operation against armed groups operating in the area. This situation has been worsened by inter-ethnic tension in the region.
The UN estimates that more than 1300 civilians have been killed in escalations of separate conflicts in eastern DRC, including Ituri and north Kivu, in the past eight months; and 1.2 million people have been forced from their homes.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, said at the weekend: “The generalised and systematic nature of some of the attacks on civilians in both Ituri and North Kivu may amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes”.
The Bishop of Winchester, the Rt Revd Tim Dakin, whose diocese is linked with the Province of the DRC, called on his diocese to pray for “our Companion Link brothers and sisters in DR Congo, particularly for Bishop William Bahemuka and those in the Diocese of Boga in the Uturi Province affected by large-scale displacement and violence”.