“In the morning, we found my husband’s lifeless body.”
Masika Savitha lost her husband, Reverend Bernard Kalume, in October 2021 when the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) laid siege to her village.
“We were almost crossing over to another village when the Muslim (extremists) reached us,” she recounted. “We did not suspect that they were coming after us. They killed my husband and slightly cut my daughter’s hand. In the morning, we found my husband’s lifeless body, but my daughter was alive though lost in the bushes.”
Masika and her children left Kainama village after burying her husband and walked 20 miles to Beni, a city of refuge for thousands fleeing rebel violence.
In November, ICC visited with some of these survivors, who selflessly shared their stories to reveal the truth of what is happening in the Congo.
“We were thriving through farming back in Oicha but the conflict has reduced us to be beggars.”
Kambale, a Christian refugee from Oicha, told ICC that he fled to Beni when his village was attacked in June of 2021.
“Our village was attacked at night, houses torched, and farms vandalized,” he said. “We have been staying here without a stable source of income since we depend on casual jobs to buy food. We live in a small rented house without beds and other furniture. We sleep on mats that we fold and keep aside during the day. We were thriving through farming back in Oicha, but the conflict has reduced us to beggars.”
The ADF started in the 1990s as a force opposing the alleged mistreatment of Muslims by the Ugandan government. They later expanded their operation to DR Congo, where they have now grown and spread in the provinces of Ituri and North- Kivu.
About 40 miles south of Beni, in a city called Butembo, masses of refugees have also gathered, leading to overcrowding and a rise in communicable diseases.
Muyisa Edson, displaced from Virunga, told ICC how he has been coordinating housing and schooling for Christians that find themselves in the city without direction.
“Others become Muslims in order to avoid being killed.”
“The greatest need for any displaced people is food and shelter,” said Edson. “The Lord has blessed our country with great farming lands and enough rainfall, but due to the killing of Christians in the villages that lead to displacement, we continue to languish in poverty and homelessness.
“We are so many in this town, and more people are coming in to seek protection from the Muslim rebels. Our family members have been killed, and others kidnapped. They are now serving the rebels without any hope of being rescued. Others become Muslims in order to avoid being killed. There are no jobs here. There are not enough houses, schools, water, and electricity for everyone…We also have fresh air in the villages, and we do not get sick frequently like in town and the refugee camps.”
Uganda deployed soldiers to the DRC last year after ADF rebels released a series of attacks in Uganda’s capital of Kampala. While the mission has reported various successes, many question whether military intervention is the answer to the complex socioeconomic crisis at hand.
In Kasindi, a region that borders Uganda in the west, Reverend Paul Kavuzungwire has been helping refugees find some bearing after leaving everything behind due to war.
“When these families come to Kasindi, they come hungry and without any money to buy food. Others come with babies that need food at least three times a day. We try our level best to find places where they can stay and how to get food. Christians welcome some of them in their homes while others rent small rooms to keep their belongings as they wake up every day to go and look for casual jobs. The need is overwhelming, and we are not able to provide a lasting solution to the situation.”
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