Congo’s Two Day War
by Lillian Moir
by Lillian Moir
A “two-day war” in late March in the Democratic Republic of Congo ended with an estimate 60 dead and extensive damage in Kinshasa, the capital city. No deaths were reported among members of the Community of Disciples of Christ in the DRC. Missionaries of Global Ministries of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and United Church of Christ also were safe.
The brief war between the Congolese Armed Forces and the private guards of the former Vice President of the Republic (Jean Pierre Bemba) began when Senator Bemba was told he had to reduce the number of bodyguards around him from more than 100 soldiers to six policemen.
Calm returned after the conflict between forces of the government and soldiers of defeated presidential candidate Bemba. Tension was high in the capital for more than two weeks before the outburst of violence that has been described by one partner as “the war of two days,” said Rev.
Sandra Gourdet, Africa executive for Global Ministries.
Many people were forced to find secure places to stay for the two days as circulation stopped completely. The Africa Office has received reports from the partners and missionaries that everyone is safe and that calm has returned to the city.
Shootings were reported in downtown Gombe. Students at The American School of Kinshasa (TASOK ) spent the night at the school because there was no safe way for them to get to their homes in the Gombe area, reported Art Mehaffey, a Global Ministries missionary.
One young Christian, reflecting on the clash and its effect on people, said he would like to ask Sen. Bemba why he would not replace his soldiers with the 12 policemen, including the UN forces as agreed, to show his good faith. “If you feel victimized, why hasn’t the same thing happened to Ruberwa, the other candidate?” he asked.
Sen. Bemba was reported to be in the embassy of South Africa in Kinshasa since the beginning of the conflict between the government’s armed forces and the soldiers of Bemba.
“The serious reading of these events shows simply the inability of our leaders to place the national interest above their own interests. The use of force by one or the other is a hidden expression of the inability to find a solution_to the true present problem,” the young Christian said.
That same young Christian also would like to ask President Joseph Kabila why he did not use the army to force out the Angolans who occupy part of the Province of Bandundu (Kahemba) and the Buroro who occupy the country north of Kisangani. “Laurent Nkunda, Pieter Karim, and the mai mai rule as absolute masters in the east where women are systematically violated and the ground exploited without law. Why not use all this force (the army) in those locations rather than sending them to crush Bemba in Kinshasa?”
“It is very frustrating for many Congolese to understand why power blinds the leaders to the point of forgetting the essential. And, it is very difficult for one to speak out without finding oneself locked away in jail. We know that the present events in Kinshasa are secondary to other events and that they will pass soon,” said the unnamed Christian.
Another young Christian reported that his father was hospitalized during the conflict. His father was not visited by his doctors for three days because of the war and his bandages have not been changed because hospital personnel had deserted the hospital. There was no food since the public markets were closed.
There are many decomposing bodies at the hospital, victims of the war between the government military and the personal guards of Jean Pierre Bemba. “At the moment, calm has returned to the country but the results are really disastrous. We were not able to get to an internet café to inform people. Please pray for my father and others,” said the unnamed Christian.