Thursday, 17 July 2003

Bunia (Fides Service) – “We have reliable confirmation that at least 24 people were killed four days ago in that area” local Church sources in Bunia, main town of Ituri region in north east Democratic Congo, commenting news of another massacre at Tchoma about 50 km from the city. “The number of victims is certainly higher, but it is difficult to have precise information because of the general state of insecurity” Fides sources say.
Early in the year Bunia was the centre of heavy fighting between Hema and Lendu militia. The European Union, in agreement with the United Nations, deployed an inter-position force to protect civilians. “Unfortunately the mandate of this force is limited only to the town of Bunia” says Fides sources, “the rest of Ituri is in chaos, arms make the law. It is feared that many masse killings have taken place of which we know nothing. The people are without help and groups of armed men ravage the villages. It is necessary to send more troops to guarantee a minimum of security in the whole of the region”.
The Church is often the only institution close to the people. “Many have taken refuge in the parishes of Fataka and Drodro. Many other have fled to the forest. Insecurity of roads makes it impossible for the people to reach Bunia” say Fides sources. “For the same reason it is very difficult to send help to the displaced persons. Diocesan Caritas office is doing its best to reach the area but it has to face difficulties at times insurmountable. Caritas store houses have been sacked several times, but this does not prevent it from carrying on its mission.”
There are at least 10 guerrilla groups, supported by various different governments, involved in the fighting. The various groups are allies one minute and rivals the nest. “When the alliance falls through acts of revenge against the opposite ethnic group follow immediately and the civilians are always the ones who pay” Fides sources say. LM (Fides Service 17/7/2003 EM lines 32Words: 371)