DR Congo

Bishop of Katanga, rebels fuel humanitarian crisis

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“The number of IDPs is close to 18,000 but it is almost impossible to know the exact number. Many are hiding in the forest. The camps for displaced people in Katanga are now four: Pweto, Mitwaba, Manono, Malembas. Humanitarian assistance has been late. We no longer know which way to turn.“ Such is the dramatic testimony given to MISNA by Monsignor Fulgence Muteba Mugalu, Bishop of Kilwa-Kasenga, in Katanga province, located in southern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Already in early January, the Congolese bishop denounced the deteriorating situation in his diocese because of the resumption of the activities by a rebel group led by Kyung Mutanga, alias Gedeon, who escaped from prison in Lubumbashi Kasapa in September. ”The tension – says Bishop Muteba – Sunday, January 15th in rose Kiseleva, in a village of 7,000 inhabitants, because of rumors about the arrival soon of Gedeon and his men. In the blink of an eye all the inhabitants have fled. A few hours later even people in other villages, panicked, and abandoned their houses.”

Civilians fear possible clashes between the rebels and regular soldiers, but they also worry about being abused by the latter. ”In Mitwaba – says the bishop – they mentioned that, men in uniform were illegally selling the personal effects of the refugees.”

Having handed himself over on May 12, 2006 to UN forces deployed in Mitwaba, Gedeon was sentenced to death by military court in Lubumbashi for crimes against humanity committed between 2001 and 2006 in the Diocese of Kilwa-Kasenga.

“Peace in our diocese, unfortunately known as the ‘triangle of death’, has lasted only six years – Monsignor Muteba regrets – but all hope that it will soon return.” To obtain it, he adds, we must stop Gedeon.” Well-armed men are looking for him – said the bishop – but the jungle, is a natural sanctuary for the warlord, and heavy rains in our region make their task difficult, if not impossible.”