Thursday, 22 January 2004

Bunia (Fides Service) – There is no peace for Ituri. For more than a week armed groups have been attacking UN peacekeepers in north east Democratic Congo (RDC) where, since 1999 at least ten different militia groups fight among themselves and harass, rob and kill civilians in the area. A UN spokesman said that despite three attacks in seven days, the Peacekeepers are determined to disarm all militia in Ituri.
Local sources told Fides that not all the groups are involved in these attacks against the UN Observation Mission in Congo MONUC. “The ones who oppose MONUC are certain groups of Hema and Lendu”. The Hema and Lendu are the main ethnic groups in the region where decades of disputes exploded in civil war involving other ethnic groups. The war was encouraged by interventions on the part of Uganda and Rwanda including distribution of arms which channelled latent tension among the people into armed conflict. All this was to exploit at low costs Ituri’s wealth of gold, timber, uranium, coltan, and oil deposits still to be extracted .
In an attempt to put an end to the violence, the United Nations decided in September 2003 to deploy 4.600 peacekeepers. “MONUC’s intervention improved security conditions in the city of Bunia, but surrounding villages are still in the hands of the rebels. People are tired of continuing attacks by these extremists which prevent the return of peace and normal living conditions” local sources told Fides
Since its outbreak in 1999 the civil war has cost 50,000 lives. Some of the dead were priests. In 2003 on 7 May Father Raphaël Ngona was murdered at his home, and on May 11, two local priests were killed Nyakasanza parish with another 48 people who had sought safety in the parish grounds. The bodies of the parish priest father François Xavier Mateso and his assistant Father Aimé Ndjabu were found brutally mutilated. (L.M.) (Fides Service 22/1/2004, lines 34 words 400)