Congo refugees re­count mur­der and rape by sol­diers back home

Ev­ery fam­ily is pro­vided with 400 grammes of maize and 600 grammes of rice daily

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - WORLD - NCHELENGE, Zam­bia, Fri­day

For those in the Zam­bian camp, pri­or­i­ties are safety and get­ting enough to eat

Re­count­ing hor­rific sto­ries of rape and mur­der by gov­ern­ment sol­diers, thou­sands of refugees from the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo have sought safety on the Zam­bian side of Lake Mweru.

About 6,000 Con­golese have fled across the bor­der since Au­gust, trig­ger­ing an emer­gency re­sponse from the UNHCR, which has strug­gled to pro­vide food and shel­ter.

DR Congo’s huge east­ern re­gion has long been wracked by vi­o­lence, but fight­ing be­tween sol­diers and mili­tia groups as well as in­ter-eth­nic clashes, has in­creased this year.

The UNHCR says the un­rest has caused the largest in­flux into Zam­bia for the past five years, with many refugees blam­ing DR Congo Pres­i­dent Joseph Ka­bila’s troops for the worst of the vi­o­lence.

“I saw a preg­nant woman be­ing raped, her stom­ach ripped open and the baby killed be­fore they killed her,” Kaimba Kazili, 39, a peas­ant said at Ke­nani tran­sit camp in Nchelenge, north­ern Zam­bia.

“It is not safe to live in Congo any more be­cause sol­diers are killing peo­ple.”

On her jour­ney to the camp, Kazili gave birth to triplets Ari, Kalangila and Kanaila — two boys and a girl — on Au­gust 20, be­fore she ar­rived in Zam­bia on Septem­ber 14.

“It was not an easy thing but luck­ily we found a man driv­ing a minibus who gave us a lift,” said Kazili, orig­i­nally from Kivu.

The triplets were shown to Zam­bian Pres­i­dent Edgar Lungu when he vis­ited the camp last week ac­com­pa­nied by UNCHR of­fi­cials and jour­nal­ists.

But Lungu had an un­com­pro­mis­ing mes­sage for the refugees.

“You have run away from law­less­ness, so don’t bring law­less­ness here,” he said.

“We have laws which should be obeyed by ev­ery­one. If you break the law, we will jail you and send you back to Congo upon re­lease.”

De­spite Lungu’s harsh words, Pier­rine Ay­lara, the UNHCR head in Zam­bia, told the pres­i­dent that she wanted “to ap­plaud your hos­pi­tal­ity to­wards those dis­placed by war and con­flict”.

For those in the camp, the only pri­or­i­ties have been their safety and get­ting enough to eat.

“Thank God I ar­rived safely with my hus­band and the four chil­dren,” said Mauno Rukogo, 42. “I will never go back to Congo. Ka­bila’s gov­ern­ment was sup­posed to pro­tect cit­i­zens but is killing peo­ple.”

Rukogo said she had been re­peat­edly dis­placed in DR Congo, where the east­ern re­gion has been roiled by con­flict for more than two decades, be­fore she fled to Zam­bia on Septem­ber 9.

The UNCHR said the refugees fled in­ter-eth­nic vi­o­lence and clashes be­tween the army and mili­tia groups, par­tic­u­larly in Haut Katanga and Tan­ganyika prov­inces since the end of Au­gust.

Ear­lier this year, se­cu­rity wors­ened sharply in the Pweto area of Haut Katanga, which shares a bor­der with Zam­bia.

Many refugees said they feel safer in Zam­bia but though food was scarce.

“We are also ask­ing for clin­ics for the chil­dren,” Rukogo added, with ram­pant malaria and di­ar­rhoea pos­ing ma­jor health prob­lems.

The UNHCR has set up tents and grass-thatched shel­ters at the 56-hectare site, as well as sunk two bore­holes and nearly 300 pit la­trines.

An agency of­fi­cial said ev­ery fam­ily was pro­vided with 400 grammes of maize and 60 grammes of rice as well as other food sup­plies a day.

“I man­aged to run away with my three chil­dren af­ter see­ing my wife be­ing killed by gov­ern­ment troops,” said Minga wa Minga, a 40-year-old teacher.

“I had to keep go­ing un­til I found some Con­golese head­ing to Zam­bia. The UN has de­scribed the sit­u­a­tion as a hu­man­i­tar­ian cri­sis but let it do some­thing to stop Ka­bila from de­stroy­ing our coun­try.”

Ka­bila failed to step down af­ter his sec­ond and fi­nal term last De­cem­ber.

Elec­tions were re-sched­uled for this year, but have now been an­nounced for De­cem­ber 2018.

DR Congo’s mil­i­tary spokesman in Kin­shasa could not be reached for com­ment on the refugee’s ac­cu­sa­tions. (AFP)

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