Originally from Goma, Father Jean Bosco testifies to the forgotten war in Eastern Congo

Originally from Goma, Father Jean Bosco testifies to the forgotten war in Eastern Congo

What is the current situation of the war in the east of the DRC?

Hand on mouth, finger on temple. On February 7, during the semi-final of the African Cup of Nations, players of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) football team denounced in unison a “forgotten crisis” in the is from their country.

The current clashes have their distant origins in the conflict in Rwanda in the mid-1990s. The two enemy Tutsi and Hutu ethnic groups find refuge, in turn, in neighboring Zaire (former name of the DRC) and form armed groups there. The DRC takes a dim view of Rwandan interference on its soil and gets involved in the conflict. Since then, the Congolese government has opposed rebel groups.

Estimates put the death toll since 1996 at 6 million. The UN estimates the number of displaced people in the east of the country at 6.9 million.

I regularly receive messages from my brothers who remained there, in the community of Goma, in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo. Day after day, they witness the violence that reigns there. Every day, they try to help the countless displaced people. They send me messages. Pictures. Look at this one from February 18. Men, children, pregnant women sleep on the ground, in the dust, under makeshift shelters made of tarpaulins. A meager bag of provisions to feed no less than eight mouths beside them. In this image, do you see this field? How many tents do you have? There are thousands of them. And every day, new white canvases are put up.

Masisi, Sake, Kitshanga… The Congolese are fleeing these villages further north of the country. Because you need to know one thing: this region of the DRC is rich in minerals. Coltan is mainly found there. A precious, blackish metal, essential to our phones. However, who says minerals says covetousness. Militias, such as the Maï-Maï or the Raïa Mutomboki, clash for control of the mines. They pillage villages, families are driven from their homes, women are raped and thousands of people are killed. It’s atrocious: they are cut like pieces of meat with machetes, crowbars. For what? To terrorize them so that they leave their lands. Driven by fear, these people flee south, towards Goma, on the border with Rwanda. The roads are clogged. The city is saturated: 135,000 people have already fled the fighting in the north to take refuge in camps on the outskirts of Goma.

There is no care, no food, no roof. The health situation is catastrophic. When I ask my brothers for news of the displaced people, they tell me: “They are dying. »And now, the rebels surround the city. They are called the M 23 for March 23 Movement. With a Tutsi majority, this group was created in 2012 following the various wars that shook the region. This movement had calmed down for a time. Then he took up arms again a year ago and continued to sow terror until he obtained a dialogue with the government. Rwanda is singled out. He is accused of helping these rebels. But ultimately, who does what? who is behind all this? We do not know.

I speak for my Congolese brothers and sisters

The conflicts do not stop and have never stopped in fact. Already, in 2012, when I entered the novitiate in Butembo (north of the country), we saw the consequences of these clashes. We heard that people were being killed and their throats slit further north, in Beni. We had a large plantation for the Assumption which was occupied by the militias. Three fellow priests were kidnapped that year. We never heard from them. A brother in my class lost his father, killed in the fields by rebels. Young boys, not very tall, already had weapons in their hands. Bodies of Congolese soldiers, rebels and civilians littered the ground.

Dealing with death has been part of everyday life for more than twenty-five years. The UN did try to send peacekeepers. But without great results. If I speak today, it is for my Congolese brothers and sisters who die every day. This Lenten season should allow us to pay attention to this people. I deeply regret the lack of international solidarity. The atrocities are visible and yet we do not talk about them. We must turn our gaze towards them. Towards this hidden war. Let’s not forget the Congo.

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