The militia descended on Sami’s village at night, bringing mayhem and bloodshed under cover of darkness. The terrified inhabitants managed to flee into the surrounding fields. For many however, there was to be no escape. “They caught a young boy and forced him to show them where people were hiding,” recalled
14-year-old Sami. “They caught me and my family. I watched them kill my family on the spot and then they attacked me with a machete.” Somehow, Sami managed to hide, despite a severe injury to his right leg. He was later found by UN peacekeepers who took him to hospital where his leg was amputated.
In the violence-wracked eastern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, attacks like that of August 2020, near the town of Boga, in Ituri province, have become a brutal norm.
In the wake of the fighting, whole communities abandon villages, homes and livelihoods, and flee with only the barest of possessions. Villages are razed to the ground. Schools and health centres are ransacked and destroyed.
The scale of the displacement is huge. More than 1.6 million people were driven from their homes in the first six months of 2020 alone.
The perpetrators use heavy weaponry as well as machetes and knives. Entire families are hacked to death, including children.
According to official UN data, 91 children were confirmed killed in Ituri province alone as a result of violence between January and August 2020. The actual number was certainly much higher.
Violence against girls and women is rampant and largely responsible for making the DRC the world’s biggest sexual and gender-based protection crisis.
The factors behind the conflict are numerous and complex.
Disputes over land and resources combined with deep-rooted ethnic animosities, a militarized informal economy, the ready availability of arms, and weak governance have produced a surge in violence during the last three years.
By November 2020, official figures showed there were around 5,2 million internally displaced people (IDPs) in DRC, mostly in the four eastern provinces of North and South Kivu, Ituri and Tanganyika.