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DR Congo Bishops Express “compassion, closeness” with Ituri Province People amid Attacks

Some members of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO). Credit: CENCO

Members of the National Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENCO) have expressed their “compassion, fraternal and spiritual closeness” with all those affected by the violence in the Province of Ituri that is covered by the Catholic Diocese of Bunia.

In their collective statement issued Wednesday, February 9, the Catholic Bishops in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) condemn the ongoing violence and express “compassion and our fraternal and spiritual closeness while assuring the people of our prayers in the face of this dramatic situation.”

“The National Episcopal Conference of the Congo (CENCO) is deeply affected and concerned about the succession of sad and dramatic events that have left dozens dead and wounded in the space of a week in the territory of Djugu in the Province of Ituri,” CENCO members say.

The Catholic Bishops go on to highlight some of the tragic events that have led to the loss of human life and property following attacks reportedly by “assailants from the Codeco militia” in Ituri Province.

“On 31 January 2022, an attack by armed men identified as assailants from the Codeco militia in the locality of Alagi, Mambisa chiefdom in Djugu territory, left six people dead and three seriously injured, not to mention the huts that were burnt down,” Catholic Bishops in DRC say.

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They add, “On 1 February 2022, Codeco militiamen attacked the camp for displaced persons at the 'Plaine Savo' site in the locality of Bule, Ngle grouping, in the Bahema Badjere chiefdom, Djugu territory, Ituri province, and massacred 63 people, including 24 women and 17 children.”

Making reference to the February 1 attack, CENCO members note that “41 people were injured, 18 seriously, including children, and that several houses were burnt down and property taken away.”

They deplore the late arrival of the military who reportedly got to the scene of the tragedy the “following day at around 5pm.”

“On 3 February 2022, the same Codeco militiamen killed one person at Mulabo in the Bahema Baguru chiefdom, still in Djugu territory,” CENCO members say, and continue, “On 5 February 2022, in Lake Albert, off the coast of the locality of Nzonzo in the Northern Bahema chiefdom, 60 people lost their lives in a makeshift boat that capsized. They were fleeing an attack by Codeco militiamen who had beheaded 9 people and set fire to several dozen houses.”

They note that “more than a hundred deaths were caused by repeated attacks by the same Codeco militia in the same territory of Djugu in the province of Ituri where a state of emergency has been declared.”

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“This is unacceptable,” Catholic Bishops in DRC say in the statement obtained by ACI Africa.

In solidarity with the population of Ituri Province, and more particularly with the families bereaved by these tragic events, CENCO members say they are deeply “saddened and concerned by these tragedies, which are causing the loss of many families and increasing the suffering of the population, already impoverished and traumatized by the precarious socio-economic and socio-security situation in these affected areas.”

They address their “condolences to all the families who have lost their loved ones in these tragedies and express our deepest sympathy to His Excellency Bishop Dieudonné Moussa, to His Excellency Bishop Dieudonné URINGI, Bishop of Bunia, to the population of Djugu and to the whole Church-family of God in the Diocese of Bunia.”

With them, Catholic Bishops in DRC say in reference to the people of God in the affected areas, “we share the sufferings of all the populations in these seriously weakened areas, and firmly condemn these acts of barbarism which humiliate humanity and therefore the Congolese people.” 

“CENCO takes this opportunity to invite the political, administrative and military authorities to do more to re-establish peace in this part of the national territory, to guarantee the security of the population in these areas which are prey to violence, and to prosecute the perpetrators of these horrible and unacceptable acts,” they say.

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In their collective statement signed by CENCO President, Archbishop Marcel Utembi Tapa, the Catholic Church leaders in DRC urge “the Codeco militia who are at the root of the desolation in this part of the national territory to stop killing our brothers, for he who hates his brother is in darkness.”

They also urge the population “not to give in to manipulation and betrayal in order to be accomplices of the enemies of peace.”

“The situation of insecurity has lasted too long,” the Church leaders note, and continue, “It is time for bloodshed to cease and for brotherhood between peoples and communities to be consolidated so that enemies can reach out to each other and adversaries can agree to walk a part of the road together.”

The Catholic Bishops “invite the populations affected by these tragedies to remain confident in God.”

“Through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, may the Risen Lord bind up the wounds of the wounded and restore courage and hope to all those who have lost their brothers and sisters. May he console the bereaved families and grant eternal rest to the victims,” CENCO members implore in their February 9 collective statement.

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