KINSHASHA, MAY 13, 2003 (Zenit.org).- Following the recent counts of numerous inter-ethnic violence, Archbishop Monsengwo Pasinya of Kisangani severely condemned “the fratricidal actions that are decimating the population.”
On Saturday May 3, parish priest Father Francois Xavier Mateseso and assistant parish priest Father Aime Ndjabu were killed in the premises of the parish of Nyakasanza by militiamen of the Lendu ethnic group. At least 48 people who had sought refuge in the Church’s premises were also killed.
On the night of May 6-7, another priest, Father Raphael Ngona, was killed in his house. A missionary of the White Fathers told the Fides agency that the situation is one of “ethnic vengeance.”
“The two priests, killed on Saturday, and the rest of the victims, were of the Hema ethnic group; they were killed by Lendu guerrillas. The international community should take note of what is happening in Ituri, because a tragedy might be unleashed, similar to that of Rwanda in 1994,” the priest said.
The Ituri region lies in the northeast of the Democratic Republic of the Congo; one of its main cities, Bunia lies near the border of Uganda. Over the past few hours, the men of Thomas Lubanga — leader of the Union of Congolese Patriots, in whose ranks there are men of the Hema ethnic group — have taken the city of Bunia, in chaos since last Wednesday’s withdrawal of the Ugandan troops that controlled it.
“We ask each and every one to halt this cycle of violence and to undertake without delay initiatives oriented to peace, forgiveness, and fraternal reconciliation,” Archbishop Monsengwo said in a note issued from Kinshasa, MISNA agency reported.
“Moreover, we request MONUC (U.N. Mission of Observers in the Congo), the U.N. Security Council, the great powers, and all those involved, to adopt energetic and effective measures with a view to ending the hostilities and to peace in Ituri and in the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” the archbishop added.
For years, there has been violence between the Hema and Lendu ethnic groups. “The Lendu population represents the majority in Bunia, and it is the region’s native population. The Hema, however, come from Uganda and were allies of Kampala. At present they support the UPC leader Thomas Lubanga, sympathetic to Rwanda,” Father Valerio Shango, the spokesman in Italy of the Congolese bishops, explained over Vatican Radio.
“It is a confrontation between Rwanda and Uganda for control of the territory and the riches of Bunia: gold deposits and oil, especially.”
Father Shango believes that this is the heart of the problem. “Uganda does not want to lose control and Rwanda wants to conquer the whole area. Unfortunately the MONUC Mission restricts itself to the implementation of the ‘cease-fire’ agreements and the protection of U.N. personnel.”
“It is hoped that the Security Council will do something soon to adapt this presence to the reality of the Congo, so that the peace process in the region will not be ruined,” he concluded.