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New wave of violence in Congo

International | Worsening unrest in the Northeast sparks international concern
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 7/24/20, 01:38 pm

Families seeking refuge from Islamist violence arrived July 9 in Boga, a town of about 30,000 people in the northeast Democratic Republic of Congo. They came from villages fewer than 10 miles away. Some carried personal belongings or brought goats and chickens they had snagged while on the move.

Other refugees from the village of Bwakadi arrived in Boga the same week after fleeing similar attacks. William Bahemuka Mugenyi, the Anglican bishop of a diocese in Boga, said the village now hosts about 10,000 refugees from around the region. They live with host families and inside school buildings and churches that have closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. “They use dry banana leaves, lay it down with a mat or cloth,” Mugenyi said, adding that the church community has collected beans and other food for those in need.

Insurgent attacks and ethnic unrest has intensified in the Ituri province on Congo’s northeastern border with Uganda. As violence displaces more people across the province, Christians and aid groups are calling for peace and increased security to ensure the safety of civilians.

The July 6 assault on Bwakwadi killed 13 people and seriously injured at least two others. In a string of attacks across the villages of Kyamata, Busio, Mugwanga, Mitembo, and Malibongo, Islamic extremists abducted about 20 people and stole some 250 cows. Locals blamed the violence on the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF), an Islamist insurgent group that began in Uganda but has spread into Congo.

Another armed group known as Cooperative for the Development of the Congo (Codeco) has also stepped up attacks in the area after the army killed its leader in March. Most Codeco fighters are from the Lendu ethnic community, and they mainly target Hema villages. Relations between the two ethnic groups have had a long, tense history since Belgian colonial leaders appointed the Hema to top economic and administrative positions. Codeco is suspected of carrying out an attack in Sindani-Akesi that left 25 people dead on July 8.

The terror attacks and ethnic conflicts in the region have displaced nearly 200,000 people since April, according to a June report from Doctors Without Borders. Alex Wade, the group’s mission leader in the province, said the insurgents targeted at least five health facilities in May and burned down more than 200 homes in the village of Wadda. “Many people are living in constant terror of being attacked in an area where the humanitarian needs are sharply increasing,” he said.

Suspected ADF insurgents attacked Boga in August of last year, looting shops and a mission hospital and abducting 200 Christians. Mugenyi said several of the captives escaped and others were released, but about 20 remain with their captors, including a woman who worked in the region’s education department and her 3-year-old nephew. “[The insurgents] were calling and asking for ransom and the family would pay but they would not release them,” he said.

In a report this month, the International Crisis Group urged the government to resume talks with militia groups and foster dialogue between the ethnic communities to find a long-term solution. Mugenyi said the communities only want “peace to run their lives without being terrorized by armed groups.”

Associated Press/Photo by Deng Aihua/Xinhua (file) Associated Press/Photo by Deng Aihua/Xinhua (file) Government workers try to stem a dike breach in southwest China’s Chongqing municipality.

China sees record flooding season

China issued its most severe flood alert this week as the longest river in Asia crested again following record rainfall this season. On Monday, local officials released water from the Yangtze River into two storage ponds to ease pressure on one of its dams.

More than 140 people are dead or missing, and the heavy rains have affected nearly 24 million people across 24 provinces this month alone, the Ministry of Emergency Management said. Authorities said the damage could cost $9.2 billion. The flooding is the worst since 1998, when more than 2,000 people died and the overflowing Yangtze destroyed nearly 3 million homes.

Parts of India and Nepal have also seen severe flooding this monsoon season. At least 85 people have died and some 2.75 million are displaced in northeastern India. In Nepal, rising waters and mudslides have killed 110 people. —O.O.

Associated Press Associated Press Qamar Gul (right) and Habibullah in the governor’s office in Feroz Koh, Afghanistan, on Tuesday.

Fighting back the Taliban

Afghanistan honored a teenager who defended against Taliban fighters after they stormed her home and killed her parents.

A group of 40 insurgents attacked the family’s village in central Afghanistan on July 17. The fighters knocked on the door of Qamar Gul’s home and shot her parents, who had opposed a Taliban tax. Qamar, 16, picked up her father’s rifle, killed two of the extremists, and injured a third, said Mohamed Aref Aber, a spokesman for the provincial governor. She and her 12-year-old brother, Habibullah, continued to fight the insurgents until other villagers and pro-government militia drove the attackers out. Officials have taken the siblings to a safe location.

The government praised Qamar’s bravery, and President Ashraf Ghani invited the children to the presidential palace. —O.O

Associated Press/Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (file) Associated Press/Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency (file) Suspected Rohingya migrants detained off the island of Langkawi, Malaysia

Rohingya refugees pardoned

A Malaysian high court this week spared 27 Rohingya refugees from caning, overturning a lower court’s sentence after an international outcry.

A court last month convicted 40 refugees of entering Malaysia by boat without a valid permit and sentenced them to seven months in jail. Rohingya Muslims fleeing a government crackdown in Burma have sought entry into Malaysia, but the country does not recognize their refugee status.

The court on the northwestern island of Langkawi ruled that caning was inhumane since the men were refugees and had no prior history of violence. The court also ordered the government to release six teenagers in the same group to the United Nations refugee agency. “Today’s decision is laudable as it demonstrates the promotion and protection of human rights,” said Collin Andrew, the refugees’ lawyer. —O.O.

Persecution in Morocco

Moroccan police are cracking down on Christian converts from Islam, according to Aid to the Church in Need. Jawad Elhamidy of the Moroccan Association of Rights and Religious Liberties said authorities arrest converts a few times a week and harass and pressure them to return to Islam before releasing them.

Although Morocco grants foreign Christians freedom to worship, the penal code requires citizens to profess faith in Islam. Evangelism is a crime, and Christian converts must worship secretly in homes. Despite government and community persecution, a church leader told Mission Network News that more Moroccans are turning to Christianity. In recent years, some urged the government to grant religious freedom and status for marriage and burial rights. —Julia A. Seymour

Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD's Africa reporter. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University-Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria. Follow her on Twitter @onize_ohiks.

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  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Wed, 07/29/2020 10:14 am

    Great article. It is sad to see the radical Muslims attacking and killing Christians. What do you think is the solution? Or is there a solution? Should Christians be more proactive to defend themselves if the government will not do it? Can a United Africa stomp it out? Just wondering on what the people in Africa think. 

    Qumar was a brave girl to stand up and kill the Taliban but I would imagine that she has a price on her head by the Taliban. Hopefully she can leave and find safety.