Congo Civil War - Kasai
It is important to underline that mysticism is an integral part of the collective belief system in the Kasai region, and its influence on the dynamics of the crisis should not be underestimated. The Kamuina Nsapu militia and the inhabitants of the villages under attack are convinced that sorcery plays a major role in explaining their resistance against the well-equipped national army.
The crisis affected the provinces of Kasai, Kasai Central, Kasai Oriental, Lomami, Kwilu and Sankuru. Human rights violations and abuses were committed against civilians by DRC Government armed forces and pro-Government militia – the Bana Mura – and by an anti-Government militia – the Kamuina Nsapu - during attacks on villages, that were often launched along ethnic lines. The violence has caused thousands of victims since August 2016 and MONUSCO identified at least 80 mass graves as of July 2017. According to the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR), approximately 30,000 people fled the Kasai to Angola between April and 22 June 2017 while 1.3 million people were internally displaced.
Up to 2.4 million people have been affected by fighting between Government forces and tribal militias loyal to a local customary chief who was killed in August 2016. The groups were accused of a number of crimes and human rights abuses, including killings and abduction, recruitment of children, and targeting schools, hospitals and churches. Thousands of Congolese fled to neighboring Angola to escape the violence.
Initially, the government denounced the insurrectionary as a movement of young unemployed drug addicts and hid the losses inflicted on them. The insurgency spread in the five provinces of the Greater Kasai region. Sankuru was the last to be "contaminated" - there are no other words. The more repressed they are by the government, the widespread become the militia and there are more adepts. The Tshiota, the "baptisms", the revolt against interference in customary affairs, marginalization, the refusal of poverty and the retention of Joseph Kabila. All these themes "speak" to the Kasaïens.
The Kamuina Nsapu, mostly young people and children, are actually killed by the bullets of the security forces. Baptism, that is, the potion of invincibility, does not protect them. And yet, they continue to mount the assault untiringly.
The UN confirmed that another militia, called the Bana Mura, was formed around March/April 2017 by individuals from the Tshokwe, Pende and Tetela ethnic groups. It was allegedly armed and supported by local traditional leaders and security officials, including from the army and the police, to attack the Luba and Lulua communities who are accused of being accomplices of the Kamuina Nsapu. The Bana Mura undertook a campaign aimed at eliminating the entire Luba and Lulua populations in the villages they attacked.” In many of the incidents reported to the team, FARDC soldiers were seen leading groups of Bana Mura militia during attacks on villages.
The crisis that had started in August 2016 as a dispute over chieftaincy and traditional rights between the Kamuina Nsapu militia and the Government of the DRC evolved, as of April 2017, taking on a more pronounced ethnic dimension, with attacks that were well planned and systematic and targeted the population of several villages of Kamonia territory, in Kasai province. Local State security and defence agents, as well as traditional leaders, supported and, on occasions, led the Bana Mura militia in fighting the Kamuina Nsapu insurrection, acting outside the framework of their functions and mandated roles.
On 26 April 2017 the United Nations appealed for $64.5 million to respond to the urgent needs of 731,000 people over the next six months in the Kasaï region, the latest “humanitarian hotspot” in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). “The Kasaï crisis is an acute crisis of massive proportions in a country that is already going through one of the world's most relentlessly acute humanitarian emergencies,” the Humanitarian Coordinator in DRC, Mamadou Diallo, said in Kinshasa. “We are facing a new challenge that requires additional resources to respond to the needs of thousands of displaced people and host families as our current capacities are being outstripped,” he added.
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), more than one million people are estimated to be currently displaced as the violence started in Kasaï Central and rippled across neighboring Kasaï, Kasaï Oriental, Lomami and Sankuru provinces. Currently some 40 national and international humanitarian organizations were working across the five provinces to respond to the crisis, which was borne out of armed clashes that erupted in August 2016 between the Congolese army and a local militia group.
The creation and arming of a militia, the Bana Mura – was allegedly to support the authorities in fighting the Kamuina Nsapu, but which has carried out horrific attacks against civilians from the Luba and Lulua ethnic groups. Refugees from multiple villages in the Kamonya territory indicated that the Bana Mura had between May and June 2017 shot dead, hacked or burned to death, and mutilated, hundreds of villagers, as well as destroying entire villages. Children as young as two had limbs chopped off; many babies had machete wounds and severe burns. One two-month-old baby seen by a UNOHCR team had been hit by two bullets four hours after birth; the mother was also wounded. At least two pregnant women were sliced open and their foetuses mutilated.
Bana Mura militia carried out what appeared to be well-planned attacks on several villages in Kamonia territory in April and May 2017. Wearing white bandanas made from mosquito nets and bracelets of leaves, the Bana Mura attacked Luba and Lulua inhabitants, beheading, mutilating and shooting victims; in some cases burning them alive in their homes. In one of the most shocking attacks, in the village of Cinq, 90 patients, colleagues and people who had sought refuge in a health center were killed, including patients who could not escape when the surgical ward was set on fire.
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