The victims of an old conflict in the High Plateau of DR Congo isolated from the world

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The victims of an old conflict in the High Plateau of DR Congo isolated from the world




Displaced people await the visit of a Congolese minister, near the Bijombo camp, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on October 10, 2020


© ALEXIS HUGUET
Displaced people await the visit of a Congolese minister, near the Bijombo camp, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on October 10, 2020


Regina was four years old when she died, a victim of lack of medicine and insufficient medical care, on the cold night of October 9, in the Bijombo displaced camp in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, devastated by an old man. conflict.

“There are no wood for the coffin,” laments his father, Gilbert, 26, sitting next to other displaced people living without humanitarian assistance at 2,360 meters above sea level in the confines of the territories of Uvira and Fizi, in South Kivu, inaccessible by land.



A Congolese soldier during a minister's visit to a camp for nationally displaced persons in Bijombo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, on October 10, 2020


© ALEXIS HUGUET
A Congolese soldier during a minister’s visit to a camp for nationally displaced persons in Bijombo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, on October 10, 2020


To wrap the body, the men asked for a black plastic bag and a box from the 70 Pakistani peacekeepers of the United Nations base that controls the place and ensures the safety of the makeshift camp, built on the slopes of a ravine.

The father claims to be a farmer from the Bafuliru community, from the village of Knagwe, several valleys further south. With his wife and two other children, he says that in June he had to flee from an attack by Banyamulenge militiamen, Congolese Tutsis with remote Rwandan origins. “They shot and set fire to some houses,” he explains.


A man tries to listen to a newscast on the radio, near a camp for displaced persons in Bijombo, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, on October 9, 2020.


© ALEXIS HUGUET
A man tries to listen to a newscast on the radio, near a camp for displaced people in Bijombo, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, on October 9, 2020.


For their part, the Banyamulenge claim that they are victims of Bafuliru militias, which, according to them, loot their cattle of cows. The Banyamulenge are little appreciated by many Congolese, who accuse them of being agents of Rwanda.

It is an old conflict that takes place practically behind closed doors, in this part of the Hauts-Plateaux (High Plateau), without there being any road between the massifs of hills, bare by deforestation and fires from burning agriculture. , valleys and rivers.

– “Afghanistan in miniature” –

It is a “miniature Afghanistan”, says a United Nations official. “Each community has an armed group. Young people [las milicias] they know all the cliffs. A regular army is overwhelmed “at this.

According to the displaced, some 700 families live in the Bijombo camp, created in October 2019 and surviving without any humanitarian assistance, in an area that can only be reached on foot or by helicopter.

On Monday, October 12, the children and teachers were unable to return to class. The logo of the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) is visible in some tents, but there is no trace of the blackboards, notebooks or pencils.


A couple and their child in a camp for displaced persons in Bijombo, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on October 10, 2020


© ALEXIS HUGUET
A couple and their child in a camp for displaced persons in Bijombo, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on October 10, 2020


Without school and with very little medical attention. Some 500 meters below, the health center that had been destroyed and the few volunteer nurses who work there take blood samples with rudimentary means, and without light.


A displaced person near the Bijombo camp, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on 9 October 2020


© ALEXIS HUGUET
A displaced person near the Bijombo camp in the Democratic Republic of the Congo on October 9, 2020


“We did not have the means to buy her medicine. We took her to the health center there. We tried to cure her, but nothing could be done. That is how my daughter died,” explains the father of little Regina, who said that her stomach.

For food, the displaced raise animals (pigs, goats, chickens) among the mud houses and the straw and bamboo huts.


A woman, who has just lost her 4-year-old daughter Regina, in the Bijombo camp for displaced persons, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, on October 9, 2020


© ALEXIS HUGUET
A woman, who has just lost her 4-year-old daughter Regina, in the Bijombo camp for displaced persons, in the Democratic Republic of Congo, on October 9, 2020


Women who try to return to their corn crops, beyond the river that separates the territories of Uvira and Fizi, risk a possible kidnapping.

Six of them were kidnapped on Thursday, October 8 by Benyamulenge militiamen.

“They took us to their military chief, who told us: ‘Leave the corn here.’ They were armed,” says one of them, Madame Mukunde.


Space occupied by displaced people in Bijombo, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on October 8, 2020


© ALEXIS HUGUET
Space occupied by displaced people in Bijombo, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, on October 8, 2020


– A “detail” –

“The 70 blue helmets have as their main mission to guarantee the security of the site. They monitor within their capacities, which does not allow them, at the moment, to go beyond five kilometers,” says an expert, referring to the abductions of women.

“We gave our point of view: you don’t have to cross the river,” says an officer of the Congolese army, deployed in five positions around the field.

“The army must organize itself, let the government install the authority of the state,” declared Congolese Defense Minister Aimé Ngoy Mukena during a whirlwind visit on Saturday 10 October, aboard a UN helicopter.

When he left, the minister left a “minutia” to the displaced, who listened to him from behind the barbed wire of the United Nations camp. Five million Congolese francs ($ 2,500), according to an official.

On Sunday morning, the camp awoke to the sound of growing anger. When it was time to make the distribution between the families, there were only 3.75 million left in the envelope. Suspicions of a diversion of funds did not take long to surface, looming over the president of the committee for displaced persons.

After a day of negotiations, an official sent by the governor returned on Monday with a new package of 5 million Congolese francs. To avoid any misunderstandings, the committee members counted the wads of banknotes in public.

In total, about 9 million Congolese francs, which would have to be divided among 700 “households” … Little Regina’s family will end up getting around 6 dollars.

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