, 13 March, 2020 / 2:26 AM
Following an attack on a Catholic Priest of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) Bunia diocese in the region of Ituri, the Diocesan Curia has condemned the incident, calling on the authorities to hasten the investigation process and bring the perpetrators to book.
“The Diocesan Curia of Bunia strongly condemns this attack against the person of Father Guy-Robert Mandro, Parish Priest of the Immaculate Heart Parish of Fataki and asks the competent authorities to quickly carry out an investigation so that those guilty of this crime can be found and punished according to the law,” reads the letter shared with ACI Africa Wednesday, March 11.
Fr. Mandro was heading to Kondoni village, which neighbours his Fataki parish, on a motorcycle on the morning of Monday, March 9 to ascertain the “persistent rumors of a possible attack” when a group of assailants, armed with machetes, attacked him.
The attackers were later joined by another group with firearms, according to reports.
“Fataki Parish has been living in the fear of a possible attack by CODECO's (Cooperative for the Development of DRC) assailants for some time,” reads the statement adding, “as a good shepherd, after the morning mass, the Parish Priest wanted to be sure by going on a motorcycle to inquire about the situation towards the village of Kondoni.”
The statement continues, “The parish priest escaped with wounds to the head, arm and back on the left side and fractured fingers, some of which were cut off.”
“He was able to save his life by escaping from them by running, but under shots fired in the air,” the statement recounts the Monday morning episode and continues, “Arriving at the nearby village of Ikpa, he was taken to the Fataki Referral Hospital by a young man on a motorcycle.”
“Because of the great agitation that was already in Fataki following the shots heard, he was taken to the Bule Health Centre where he received first aid,” the statement signed by the Chancellor of the Curia, Abbot Eric Masini Mbundu recounts.
Through the intervention of United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the DRC (MONUSCO), the Priest was later airlifted to the General Reference Hospital of Bunia where the “nursing staff is confident about his state of health,” the March 9 statement reads.
The Diocese of Bunia is located in the north eastern gold-rich Ituri region of DRC, which has been experiencing inter-ethnic conflict between the pastoralist Hema and agriculturalist Lendu communities since the 2000s. However, the violence escalated in December 2017.
According to the UN Joint Human Rights Office (UNJHRO), Lendu armed groups have become notorious in carrying out attacks against the Hema and members of other ethnic groups with an objective of taking control of land and resources.
The January 2020 report by UNJHRO also indicates that between December 2017 and September 2019, at least 700 people have died due to the violence, 168 others injured and 142 sexually abused.
The letter that was signed by the Chancellor of the Diocesan Curia “also pleads for the urgent securing of Fataki and its population.”
The Chancellor’s statement concludes by inviting “all the faithful to continue to pray for the injured Priest and in general, in this time of Lent, for the conversion of hearts and the re-establishment of peace in Ituri.”
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa