Kinshasa (Agenzia Fides) - Don Benoît Kinalegu, the Catholic priest who alerted the world to the terrible abuses of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Congo, passed away at only 53 years of age. In particular, it was Don Kinalegu who first reported the massacre committed by the Ugandan origin group during Christmas 2008 (see Fides 09/01/2009; 14/01/2009), with the killing of more than 800 people in the region of Haut-Uélé.
"When a colleague and I arrived in Dungu to see if the reports were true, we were told that there was one person we needed to meet: Abbé Benoît", said in a note sent to Agenzia Fides, Ida Sawyer of Human Rights Watch (HRW). "From the moment we met him, we were struck by his courage". "He agreed to help us uncover what had happened and accompanied us by motorcycle to the remote massacre sites. His rapport with the traumatized victims and witnesses, many of whom had seen loved ones hacked to death, was instant. He was gentle, comforting and supportive. They looked up to him and he gave encouragement, assuring them they would not be forgotten".
A promise that Don Benoît kept to the point that the US government sent a special task force to the DRC, South Sudan and the Central African Republic (the three countries most affected by the LRA incursion), to hunt down guerrillas led by Joseph Kony.
Don Benoît also started a center in Dungu for children who had been abducted by the LRA and forced to serve as sex slaves and fighters. "He helped them to recover, rebuild their lives, and reintegrate back into their communities. His warm smile and optimistic nature helped them on their long journey to recovery. For the LRA’s many victims and their families, he was a pillar of strength in their darkest hours", concluded Ida Sawyer.
Don Benoît Kinalegu died of kidney and respiratory problems. He was director of the "Justice and Peace" Commission of the diocese of Dungu-Doruma. In 2012 he was awarded the Alison Des Forges Award by HRW for his humanitarian efforts. (L.M.) (Agenzia Fides 13/04/2016)