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World Fragile hopes in DR Congo's Ituri province, scarred by conflict

11:25  30 september  2020
11:25  30 september  2020 Source:   msn.com

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“The future is dark,” sighs Joachim Lobo, a teacher who longs “to pick up the chalk” and be reunited with his pupils if ever peace is restored to northeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). “I lost my job because of all this nonsense,” Lobo says of communal violence in the gold-rich Ituri province

in the gold-rich Ituri province , where he taught French and philosophy, speaking with a restraint and modesty characteristic of Congolese people in the At 60, the father of nine children has become one of tens of thousands of civilians displaced in Ituri since the violence resumed in December 2017 in the

"The future is dark," sighs Joachim Lobo, a teacher who longs "to pick up the chalk" and be reunited with his pupils, if ever peace is restored to northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

a man standing in a room: School teacher Joachim Lobo says the conditions in the displaced camp are dire © ALEXIS HUGUET School teacher Joachim Lobo says the conditions in the displaced camp are dire a person standing next to a train: A passer-by looks inside an overturned truck in the middle of National Road 27 in Ituri © ALEXIS HUGUET A passer-by looks inside an overturned truck in the middle of National Road 27 in Ituri

"I lost my job because of all this nonsense," Lobo says of communal violence in the gold-rich Ituri province, where he taught French and philosophy, speaking with a restraint and modesty characteristic of Congolese people in the face of suffering.

Trapped: DRCongo villagers caught between army and gun-toting sect

  Trapped: DRCongo villagers caught between army and gun-toting sect "My house was here," says Seraphine. "It has been destroyed." She has returned to Dhera, a village ravaged in April in an alleged revenge operation by government troops. Dhera lies in Ituri province, part of the vast, long-suffering east of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the army is battling more than a hundred armed groups, from ragtag fighters to organised militias. The fighting has many dark and brutal aspects. They include the behaviour of the armed forces, whose troops -- which include former militia fighters -- are often accused of violations of human rights in UN reports.

Has DR Congo achieved any kind of peace? Most of the country has now found peace and the central government has slowly reasserted control. But the bitter conflict has continued unabated and Congolese government troops, backed by thousands of UN peacekeepers, have failed to defeat the

Sparked by the Second Congo War, fighting between the two tribes shook the region between 1999 and 2003, during which an estimated 60,000 people were killed and 500,000 displaced. Violence continued in the region until 2007 after which Ituri has enjoyed a relative peace. Though it has been

a group of people walking in front of a house: Internally displaced children play in the courtyard of the Minor Seminary, destroyed during the Ituri War from 1999 to 2003, in Fataki © ALEXIS HUGUET Internally displaced children play in the courtyard of the Minor Seminary, destroyed during the Ituri War from 1999 to 2003, in Fataki

"You see how we can be revolted."

At 60, the father of nine children has become one of tens of thousands of civilians displaced in Ituri since the violence resumed in December 2017 in the Djugu and Mahagi areas.

In 2019, he fled Sombuso, his natal village in the ravaged Djugu territory.

Lobo lives today in a displaced persons camp at Loda, 20 kilometres (12 miles) from his home and located close to a base of the foreign troops serving in the UN mission in the Congo (MONUSCO).

Wangari Maathai et al. in uniform: Militiamen, including children, of the armed group Codeco © ALEXIS HUGUET Militiamen, including children, of the armed group Codeco

The daily conditions are dire, he says. "No latrines, no food, no drinking water, no medical care."

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Mobutu Sese Seko, Congo ’ s post-independence dictator, gave plum posts to the Hema, who Although there are officially no foreign troops on Congolese soil, Ituri is in danger of reliving its past. Ebola, which broke out in neighbouring North Kivu province last year, is adding to the misery, killing

DR Congo ' s troubled Ituri province . Marthe BOSUANDOLE and Alexis HUGUET. Fifty-eight people have been killed in attacks in a restive province of eastern DR Congo , local officials said on Thursday, blaming a notorious militia.

Lobo belongs to the Hema community, traditionally known as stockbreeders and traders, and he left Sombuso to escape the brutality of one wing of the Congo Development Cooperative (Codeco) created by Lendu people.

Experts explain that the Codeco appears to bring together several sects of militia fighters who claim to defend the property rights of the Lendu farming communities in the Djugu territory.

a group of people walking down a dirt road: Heavily armed militiamen from the Cooperation for the Development of Congo (CODECO) negotiate peace terms with former warlords sent as peace emissaries of peace by Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi © Alexis HUGUET Heavily armed militiamen from the Cooperation for the Development of Congo (CODECO) negotiate peace terms with former warlords sent as peace emissaries of peace by Congolese President Félix Tshisekedi

- 'A responsible government' -

Lendu militias, known for animist beliefs and rituals, are held responsible for the massacre of several hundred Hema civilians.

This is not the first time that "Papa Joachim" fled violence in Ituri, to become a living memory of the wounds of two decades and more.

Fragile hopes in DR Congo's Ituri province, scarred by conflict

  Fragile hopes in DR Congo's Ituri province, scarred by conflict "The future is dark," sighs Joachim Lobo, a teacher who longs "to pick up the chalk" and be reunited with his pupils, if ever peace is restored to northeastern Democratic Republic of Congo. "The future is dark," Papa Joachim says."I lost my job because of all this nonsense," Lobo says of communal violence in the gold-rich Ituri province, where he taught French and philosophy, speaking with a restraint and modesty characteristic of Congolese people in the face of suffering.

Ituri is one of the 21 new provinces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo created in the 2015 repartitioning. Ituri , Bas-Uele, Haut-Uele, and Tshopo provinces are the result of the dismemberment of the former Orientale province .

Western Civ Memorial Movie about the Ituri conflict in the Congo . 🇨🇩 Dozens killed in DR Congo ' s Ituri province | Al Jazeera English - Продолжительность: 2:35 Al Jazeera English 3 201 просмотр.

In 1999, he abandoned his home after the outbreak of the Second Congo War (1998-2003), which saw the armies of more than half a dozen African countries enter the vast DRC. Violence cost tens of thousands of lives in Ituri.

At the time, the Lendu and the Hema were killing each other in militia attacks, which were stopped in 2003 by Operation Artemis, a military intervention by a European Union Force (EUFOR) backed by the United Nations.

When violence resumed in 2017, there were marked differences from the wartime clashes.

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Bunia, DR Congo , Sept 10 (UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 11th Sep, 2020 ) :Fifty-eight people have been killed in the eastern DR Congo province of Ituri , the province ' s interior minister told AFP on Thursday, attributing the massacres to a notorious militia. Twenty-three people were killed in Irumu

"What they are doing in Congo can be called genocide," Lubanga told DW. He sees an old conflict being rekindled. "The tragedy that took place between 1999 and 2003 has not been fundamentally The Ituri killings is one of the cruelest chapters in the history of the conflict -ridden eastern DR Congo .

The Hema have not reconstituted their militias and Lendu public figures condemn the raids committed in their name by Codeco forces.

Neighbouring Uganda appears to be playing no role across the border in Ituri, after being convicted by the International Court of Justice in 2005 of unlawful armed aggression and violation of territorial sovereignty during "Africa's Great War".

The court ordered Uganda to pay reparations to DR Congo, but today commerce in gold from Bunia in Ituri and Butembo in North Kivu province to Uganda's Entebbe international airport is doing well, according to the NGO Impact, which seeks to help artisanal miners.

"The future is dark," Papa Joachim says. "We thought we would have a responsible government, yet we don't know when we can return to our land."

Invested in January 2019, President Felix Tshisekedi denounced "attempted genocide" and a "plot" during a rare visit to Bunia in July that year, at the height of an outbreak of violence.

He announced a "large-scale" military operation dubbed "Ituri Tempest" against the attackers, which led to the killing of a Codeco chief.

- 'A rebel like you' -

A year later, Tshisekedi despatched a delegation of former militia chiefs from the time of the Second Congo War to negotiate the surrender of pro-Lendu fighters.

The team was led by Floribert Ndjabu, a man who served 15 years in preventive detention on  suspicion of the murder of nine UN peacekeeping troops in 2005.

"I told them: 'I was a rebel like you — you have nothing to teach me,'" Ndjabu said to AFP.

The outcome of talks has been a noticeable decline in the number of deadly raids, according to the testimony of witnesses.

Key roads that had been blockaded, such as the RN27 linking DR Congo and Uganda, are once again open to traffic but the vehicles are escorted by the military, AFP saw.

Part of the population remains sceptical about any peace process.

"We need military pressure, with means sufficient to allow the army to secure the population and enforce peace, while justice should take care of the criminals," said Agathe Gipatho, a 60-year-old peasant woman, during an exchange with members of the Alur community in Nioka.

"People are tending to return to their villages," said Dieudonne Kpadyu Mnyoro. "But their key concern is safety, an end to the violence."

A trader and chief of a Hema village, Mnyoro and more than 1,200 families took refuge last March in the ruined buildings at Fataki, a Roman Catholic parish destroyed in the Second Congo War.

In Ituri, religious edifices are like men and women. They all bear the scars of conflict.

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COVID-19 and climate change are a perfect storm for violent conflict .
Governments need to deliver a unified response based on an understanding of how the impacts of climate and COVID-19 are combining to create heightened risks of conflict .The pandemic has affected both rich and poor countries alike, but for those already struggling with poverty, COVID-19 is creating new risks of instability. In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, severe movement restrictions during the pandemic have combined with existing food insecurity that was already at record levels due to droughts, flooding and pest infestation.

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