9th May, 2016

Islamist militants are suspected to have killed between 20 and 40 villagers in the eastern extremes of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, according to news reports and a World Watch Monitor source.

Attackers carried machetes and axes into a village in North Kivu province, in eastern DRC, late in the evening on 3rd May.

“Between 20:00 and 22:00, the enemy managed to get past army positions and kill peaceful residents in their homes, slashing their throats,” local administrator Bernard Amisi Kalonda told Agence France-Presse. “The 16 bodies are in front of me, killed by machete or axe.”

One local source later told World Watch Monitor on 6th May that as many as 34 may have died; another source quoted 38, including, he said, two elders and their wives of the CECA 20 (Communaute Evangelique au Centre de l’Afrique) Church.

A local Christian missionary told World Watch Monitor on 4th May that thousands of people have fled the area. “It was eerie; hundreds of houses abandoned and thousands of people displaced,” the missionary said. “I saw four coffins and a funeral or two on the road. I saw people carrying their mattresses and things in cars, on motorcycles, on foot.

“Hundreds of homes along the road are abandoned. Where there was thriving community, there is now a ghost town.”

World Watch Monitor is withholding the missionary’s name for security reasons.

Gen Jean Baillaud, the military chief of the UN’s 20,000 soldier force in the DR Congo, confirmed at least 17 people had been killed.

Local administrator Kalonda told AFP it is unknown if the attack was carried out by Muslim Defense International, formerly known as the Alliance of Democratic Forces. The 20-year-old alliance of Ugandan militants was first linked with former Ugandan dictator Idi Amin. It has long been active in the eastern regions of neighbouring DR Congo, and is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of civilians since 2014, according to the UN.

The MDI has repeatedly attacked the majority-Christian population in eastern DRC for years. Kidnapping and murder are common. It is alleged to have support from the Islamic government of Sudan, an assertion made by the Uganda government and backed by Western diplomatic sources. The group is accused of waging a proxy war for Sudan against Uganda as retribution for Uganda’s support of secessionists who broke away to form the nation of South Sudan in 2011.

The MDI is known to have attracted foreign recruits and to have forced Christians to convert to Islam.

The local population in the related area is overwhelmingly Christian (95.8 per cent) and the impact on them has been immense. After this latest attack, World Watch Monitor heard from a pastor in the area who said the people are terrified but that while some contemplated fleeing again, others have opted to stay in the hope that things will normalise soon.

In a letter released a year ago, the bishops of the Province of Bukavu (eastern DRC) denounced a “climate of genocide” and the passivity of the Congolese State and international community.

“Does the situation have to deteriorate even more before the international community takes measures against jihadism?” asked the bishops in May 2015, according to whom “a strategy of forced displacement of populations is taking place in order to gradually occupy the land and install outbreaks of religious fundamentalism and terrorist training bases”, the Catholic news agency Fides reported.

- World Watch Monitor