OP: I moved the beginning of the article under a cut because it might be triggering.
DR Congo massacre: 'My daughter was slashed with a machete'
(OP: Crappy lj is rejecting the embedding of the video in this part of the text for some reason. It can be found here.)
"Found beside her murdered mother": Horrifying accounts from survivors of a village massacre
BBC Africa editor Fergal Keane writes about the anger and anguish of villagers caught up in the latest spiral of violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
A dark line ran across the small, beautiful face. On either side were stitch marks that ran up under the white bandage covering the top of her head. The wound was deep. The scar would be with Rose all of her days.
I was sitting a few feet away, a stranger, someone from another world. But she was without curiosity. It was as if I did not exist at all. As her father said, she was "far away. It's as if she hears and sees nothing."
Like many of the small children of Maze village in north-eastern Ituri province, Rose Mapenzi, aged four, was strapped to her mother's back when the killers struck.
The women were preparing the evening meal when they heard the cries of the attackers. Those carrying children, as well as the elderly, were an easy target. As they stumbled in panic, the machetes hacked and slashed.
UN peacekeepers are battling to achieve stability in DR Congo
Rose's father, Jeremy, recalled the moment the ethnic Lendu militia overran Maze on 1 March.
"They started to chase us and those who could not run were caught and hacked. This child of mine was wounded but the assailants were in a hurry so they did not finish killing her. Hence she survived," he said.
'Family of 18 buried'
Another man, Malobi Lika, managed to escape with his pregnant wife but saw his sister cut down. Again he described how the killers had hacked at the face and head.
As a senior UN official who visited the scene the following day said: "It was vicious, savage and it was meant to terrorise people."
More than 40 people were killed in the rampage. Their bodies lie in two mass graves in the centre of Maze. Each day fresh bougainvillea are laid, bright violet flowers in memory of the dead.
As I stood beside the graves, a group of men came over. One pointed towards the grave and said 18 members of his family were buried there. He gave his name as David and he was angry.
"You come to investigate, people come to investigate. But tell me who is going to be held responsible?
"The people who are dead - who is going to be responsible for that? Who is going to help? People come to annoy us with their recorders but nobody brings a solution. What is the solution? I'm desperate," he said.
David knew the truth of DR Congo. For the mass of the poor there are few signs of hope.
More about DR Congo:
The international community prays that President Joseph Kabila will accede to elections before the end of the year but is preoccupied with North Korea and the Middle East.
There is no appetite for scaling up the UN military presence - at the moment there are just over 15,000 troops in a country the size of western Europe.
Many children have grown up with violence
The slaughter at Maze was committed by Lendus against the Hema. Survivors told us that the killers had come from a nearby village.
The massacre has bitter antecedents. I first reported on mass killings in this region 15 years ago.
But to label what is happening simply as "ethnic violence" is too reductive. It cannot be separated from current politics and a bloody history stretching to the 19th Century and the age of empire.
What was meant to be the hour of freedom from colonialism in 1960 brought a secessionist war. At the same time the CIA plotted the overthrow of the new nation's leader, Patrice Lumumba, and helped deliver into power one of the most corrupt dictators in African history, Mobutu Sese Seko. He ruled through patronage and fear.
After Mobutu came Laurent Kabila - murdered in January 2001 - and then his son Joseph who now clings to power beyond the two terms allowed under the constitution.
(OP: Crappy lj is rejecting the embedding of the video in this part of the text for some reason. It can be found here.)
The road where everyone is hungry
The elite amass wealth through control of the country's exceptional natural resources. The country - including Ituri - is rich in oil, minerals and precious metals.
Some of DR Congo's African neighbours proved themselves as ruthless as any Western imperialist in exploiting the country's resources. At one stage seven African nations had intervened in DR Congo.
More than four million people were killed in two prolonged wars between the mid-1990s and the early years of the new millennium.
The state is not trusted in Ituri. In the minds of many it represents arbitrary executions and endemic corruption. The worst is expected of state power.
DR Congo's crisis in numbers
- 13 million people in need of humanitarian assistance
- More than 4 million displaced
- More than 7 million face severe food insecurity
- Two million children at risk of starvation- 12% of cases worldwide
DR Congo has been hit by instability for more than a decade
Rumours abound in Ituri that the massacres were planned, that money and weapons were handed out in an attempt to foment ethnic violence.
The stories are unconfirmed but even before the eruption of violence in Ituri late last year, the opposition was accusing President Kabila of "spreading chaos" in other areas to prevent elections.
I put this to the local governor, Jefferson Abadallah Pene Mbaka. He acknowledged that the police and military had "failed the people" by not protecting them from the massacre.
But he defended the president against any suggestions of manipulation, saying: "I don't think that there could be a head of state, even if he doesn't want elections, who could stir up his population.
"For what reason? So that he would become a super president of the republic? I don't see any reason."
Conflicts in the provinces of Tanganyika, Kasai, in North Kivu and South Kivu have uprooted more than four million people across the country.
The scale of loss in DR Congo is impossible to convey in the existing vocabulary of human suffering.
It is not hard to anticipate a greater tragedy if the present political instability continues.
In a country where millions have already died in conflict, the massacre at Maze is a warning to the world of what can happen as DR Congo slides ever deeper into crisis.
Some more background on the origins of the violence in the DRC:
-By the Council on Foreign Relations: Violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo, The Humanitarian Catastrophe. The Conflict in Eastern Congo has killed and displaced millions.
-At Human Rights Watch: Democratic Republic of Congo. Events of 2017.
Background on the DRC itself (and a bit on events from years past):
-DR Congo country profile. (At the BBC)
-Democratic Republic of the Congo. (At Encyclopedia Britannica)
Something that is important to know about the DRC is that, between 1994 and 2003 it went through a conflict known as 'Africa's first world war' wherein many other African countries (Rwanda, Uganda, Angola, Zimbabwe, Sudan, and other African nations) invaded the DRC. In fact, while westerners think of the Rwandan genocide as one event taking place in 1994, the events in Rwanda led to violence across a good part of the region. (See also here (on Burundi).)
-Africa's great war.
-America's secret role in the Rwandan genocide. (From the article: "The violence that shocked the world in 1994 did not come from nowhere. While the CIA looked on, its allies in the Ugandan government helped to spread terror and fuel ethnic hatred")
-The United Nations also should bear part of the blame for past events in the DRC (the war in DRC is discussed in this article): "The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) [in 1994] took the fateful decision to recognise the Hutu extremists as leaders of the refugee camps and gave them control of food distribution. That ensured that the military men remained well fed and fit, and gave them considerable control over the sprawling camps which were soon transformed into armed bases to continue the war against the new government in the Rwandan capital, Kigali. (...) Two years later, in 1996, Rwanda decided it could no longer tolerate the camps keeping the threat of genocide alive on its border and it invaded Zaire." (OP note: The DRC used to be called Zaire.)
-Review of a book called, 'Africa's world war', about the war. (OP has no affiliation or links to the author, btw).
Violence has continued since 2003:
-Democratic Republic of Congo profile - Timeline.
-The Origins of War in the DRC. How the region became overrun by warlords and lacking any kind of functional government.
-One group which caused a lot of suffering in eastern DRC was known as M23. "The rebels are named after a peace agreement they signed with the Congolese government on March 23, 2009 when they were fighting as part of a group calling itself the National Congress for the Defence of the People (CNDP). (...) The rebels belong to the minority Tutsi ethnic group and have close ties to the Tutsi in neighbouring Rwanda. Their rebellion began in April 2012 when they mutinied. At that time, the CNDP was led by Bosco Ntaganda. (...) The rebels say they started their rebellion because they were not happy with the pay and conditions in the Congolese army. But Congolese government officials and analysts say the mutiny began when the government came under pressure to arrest Ntaganda and hand him over to the ICC." (i.e. ICC = International Criminal Court) Their rebellion officially ended in 2013. However, according to Human Rights Watch: "Senior security force officers in the Democratic Republic of Congo mobilized at least 200 and likely many more former M23 rebel fighters from neighboring Uganda and Rwanda to protect President Joseph Kabila and quash anti-Kabila protests in December 2016."
The end of the M23 rebellion (see paragraph just above) hasn't brought an end to the violence in the DRC, however.
-UN warns situation in DR Congo reaching 'breaking point'. The second deadly attack in a month happened where land disputes have reignited a long-dormant ethnic conflict and caused thousands to flee. The UN has warned the situation in the DRC has reached "a breaking point." "Land disputes have reignited a largely dormant conflict between the communities over the past two months. At least 30 people were killed during two days of clashes in February. (...) The recent clashes in the region are part of a larger pattern of unrest in Congo which has been partially blamed on DRC President Joseph Kabila's refusal to step down after his term of office legally ended in December 2016." (Note that this article does not cover the latest violence as it dates back to February 2018.)
There is also the role of governmental corruption and foreign corporations, which don't help:
-Murky minerals. (Deals with government corruption in the DRC under the current leadership (i.e. Kabila).)
-The DRC's future is in your hands. (Editorial from 2011) From the text: "It is widely believed that 95% of mobile phones contain metals mined in my country, the Democratic Republic of Congo, by international extractive companies and supplied by global commodities traders. Many of these companies are based in Britain. The issue has been highlighted by the NGO Global Witness, which has accused a number of companies of engaging in unethical practices. British mineral trader Afrimex was accused of contributing to armed conflict and human suffering in eastern Congo through trading with the semi-autonomous groups in the DRC military. In April, the supreme court in Quebec [Canada] ruled that a case could proceed against another company, the Anvil Mining Corporation. It is accused of providing logistical support – to try to protect its mining investment – to the Congolese army who raped, murdered and brutalised the people of Kilwa in a massacre in 2004."
-Multinationals in scramble for DRC wealth. (From 2002) (It is important to note that the DRC is extremely rich in various natural resources.)
-Robin Wright targets Congo's 'conflict minerals' violence with new campaign. #StandWithCongo: the House of Cards actor says it is ‘unacceptable’ that smartphones and laptops still contain minerals mined in conflict-torn nation. (From 2016)
OP: The rest of the world (and notably the 'west') has a lot to answer for.