DR Congo: missionary reports people still living in fear

 "In spite of the fact that for the past few days, the media's interest in this part of the world has died down, the conflict continues in the region of Kivu, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo," Spanish missionary Fr Juanjo Aguado writes.

Fr Aguado has has been living in Goma since August, in a new community of Jesuit Refugee Services (JRS) that was sent in to carry out an educational mission in Rutshuru. However, he writes: "the reality of the opening of the school failed." In fact, "on Monday, in the school with the largest student populations, there were five, in others, there were one or two, and in the majority of the schools, there was no one."

The priest says that this is mainly a result of fear: "The people are still very afraid. Although dramatic events such as the November 5th massacre have not reoccurred, parents are afraid that their sons will be recruited by force or that their daughters will be used as servants or violated. These things have been occurring on a large scale in recent years, and continue to occur, unfortunately. The people live as if they were in a foreign land, in distrust and anxiety ­ especially at night." In addition, "several schools have been used in recent weeks as military camps and in the schools of the JRS program, there were robberies of classroom materials and in the principal's office."

Also in recent days, the Jesuit missionary has visited the internal refugee camps in Kiwanja (a town five km from Rutshuru), with 6,000 people. It is located in front of the MONUC (UN security forces) headquarters. He says: "the tents are placed side-by-side, in order to take advantage of the little space in front of the military base. It is the only place where they feel a 'bit' (a very little bit) safer. The majority are internal refugees who were in the camps that were dismantled on November 1 near Rutshuru and Kiwanja. In spite of the fact that the new authorities try their best to make them go back to their homes, the situation in their hometowns (for some, for over two years) is one of absolute instability, as they are fighting zones." In this camp, "they have no water and barely any food, because as these refugees are not recognized residents of Kiwanja, they were not able to participate in the distribution of food that was made 2 weeks ago," the Jesuit explained. "The NGOs are now dialoguing with the new authorities, for permission to give them something next Monday, but it is a complicated situation, as they think that if the people are given these things, they will not return to their homes."

"They are humble and simple people, who would prefer to return to their homes instead of having to repair, on a daily basis, the poles holding up the plastic over their heads. They are afraid. They are people that enjoy conversation and do not let themselves get bogged down in their miseries, but always try to find a reason to hope," the missionary concluded.

Source: Fides

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