DR Congo

MAF assists in relief work in Congo as LRA pillages villages and forces children to join ranks as soldiers

BUNIA, D. R. Congo-11-03-08 - MAF (Mission Aviation Fellowship) is assisting several relief agencies in delivering food and medical supplies to refugee camps in the northern region of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in response to the Lord's Resistance Army's (LRA) raids on villages there.

Primary assistance by MAF has been for Medair (www.medair.org), an international non-government organization that provides lifesaving relief and rehabilitation in disasters, armed conflicts and other crises.

The LRA, led by Joseph Kony, is a self-proclaimed rebel guerrilla army operating mainly in northern Uganda and parts of Sudan. Kony proclaims himself the "spokesperson" of God and a spirit medium. The LRA is accused of widespread human rights violations, including murder, abduction, mutilation, sexual enslavement of women and children, and forcing children to participate as soldiers in hostilities.

Ron Wismer, manager of research for MAF, said MAF is keeping a watchful eye on other events in DRC as conflicts continue to escalate in the eastern and northern parts of that country.

In eastern DRC near Uganda, rebels, led by Laurent Nkunda and backed by Uganda, are seeking a buffer zone and are attempting to take over the city of Goma.

MAF hasn't been affected by this unrest yet, Wismer said, but could be asked to assist with relief efforts for fleeing refugees in the near future. MAF is now able to manage with current staffing, but if the refugee situation increases near Goma, additional staff may be needed, he said.

Various tribes are also reeking vengeance on one another in the Nyankunde area. MAF once operated a base in Nyankunde. That base was destroyed during tribal conflict six years ago. MAF now conducts its relief work from Bunia. Violence has been renewed in the area, where the government has very little control. Last week MAF evacuated two of its missionary families from the region for safety reasons.

While MAF specializes in working in remote areas, relief work is not easy, said Wismer. "Because of the remote location and the difficulty getting supplies in, it's very expensive to operate in the northeast part of the country. The high price of aviation gasoline (avgas) adds to the cost of MAF relief efforts."

Founded in the U.S. in 1945, MAF missionary teams of aviation, communications, technology and education specialists overcome barriers in remote areas, transform lives and build God's kingdom by enabling the work of more than 1,000 organizations in isolated areas of the world. With its fleet of 134 bush aircraft, MAF serves in 51 countries with an average of 281 flights daily across Africa, Asia, Eurasia and Latin America. MAF pilots transport missionaries, medical personnel, medicines and relief supplies, as well as conduct thousands of emergency medical evacuations in remote areas. MAF also provides telecommunications services, such as satellite Internet access, high frequency radios, electronic mail and other wireless systems.