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DR Congo massacre survivors struggle for survival

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After fleeing the Kishishe massacre in the Democratic Republic of Congo’s volatile east, the survivors recount how they fled to Kitshanga to a displaced peoples’ camp, which has been home to many displaced people for over 20 years.

“We were told that many people died in Kishishe,” says one woman who followed the river’s path to escape the massacre with some of her children.

They saw horrors in their village of Kishishe fled and walked in fear and cold for dozens of kilometres to escape the M23 rebels who are backed by Rwanda, according to the UN.

An AFP team met Samuel, Tuyisenge, Eric, Florence and others on Friday in a camp for displaced people in the locality of Kitshanga, in the Masisi territory, where they arrived in recent days.

Depending on the route they took, they travelled 40 or 60 kilometres through the hills to arrive at this camp called Mungote, after fleeing the November 29 killings.

According to a preliminary U.N. investigation, at least 131 civilians were executed that day by the M23 (“March 23 Movement”), a predominantly Tutsi rebellion that has seized large swaths of Rutshuru territory, neighbouring Masisi, north of the North Kivu provincial capital, Goma, in recent months.

The rebels are also accused of rape, abduction and looting, committed against the civilian population in retaliation for an attack by mainly Hutu armed groups.

“The M23 rebels started shooting everywhere,” said Samuel, a young man who said he saw six dead – three members of his family, including his older brother James, and three other residents of Kishishe.

“I decided to run away and it took me a week to get to Kitshanga on foot,” he says.

Tuyisenge is a 30-year-old mother. “I was in church and I was able to escape. Some resisted and were killed. I saw nine dead,” she says, with tears in her eyes.

“I have seven children, but I came here with three. The other four have disappeared and my husband, I have no news”, she adds, surrounded by other women who also want to tell the terror they have experienced.

They have nothing, just the clothes they were wearing when they ran away.

A little further on, in the middle of the displaced persons’ huts, Florence, 45 years old, explains that she walked for several days to get here. She has no news of her husband or two of her children. “In the camp, the one who takes pity on me gives me sweet potatoes,” she says sadly.

Eric is haunted by the image of his older brother’s two children who “came out of the house shouting ‘there’s shooting'”. “They were shot right at the door and died on the spot”, their names were Jacques and Musayi.

According to the Congolese government, UN experts and the American and Belgian diplomatic corps, Rwanda supports the M23. Kigali disputes this, accusing Kinshasa of supporting Hutu rebels, some of whom were involved in the 1994 genocide of Rwandan Tutsis.

The former colonial power Belgium tweeted a statement about the massacre.

It called on Rwanda “to cease all assistance to the M23 and to continue to use all the means at its disposal to persuade it to re-engage in a process of disarmament, demobilization and community reintegration.”

There have been war-displaced people in Kitshanga for years, some having arrived at the time of a previous M23 offensive. The movement occupied Goma for about 10 days in late 2012, before being defeated the following year by the Congolese army supported by UN peacekeepers.

The M23 took up arms again late last year, blaming the Kinshasa government for not respecting commitments to demobilize its fighters.

According to its officials, the Mungote camp was already home to more than “40,000 households” and about 4,000 more arrived just recently.

“Up to four families are sleeping in a hut, men, women and children. People are dying,” says Vumilia Peruse, vice president of the camp. “They arrive with nothing… The authorities must intervene as soon as possible to avoid a catastrophe,” she said.

“We thought that this war was between soldiers and that we would be spared,” comments Toby Kahunga, president of the civil society of the Bashali chiefdom (grouping of villages). “But they are killing people,” he said, demanding that Rwandan President Paul Kagame “withdraw his men.”

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AU official calls out Germany over leopard jibe that left some offended

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A Leopard 2 tank is pictured during a demonstration event held for the media by the German Bundeswehr in Munster near Hannover, Germany, Wednesday, Sept. 28, 2011. - Copyright © africanews Michael Sohn/AP2011

Germany apologized on Thursday (Jan. 26) for using a leopard emoji in a tweet refering to the Russian Foreign Minister’s visit to Africa. The post that was regarded as offensive by some users was called out by the spokeswoman for the African Union chairman Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat.

The German foreign ministry attempted to poke fun at Russia’s top diplomat during his tour of Africa when it tweeted that he wasn’t there looking for leopards, but using the trip to try and justify Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

The tweet, and the leopard emoji the foreign ministry used on its official account, apparently sought to play off Germany’s decision to send some of its advanced Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine to back its military fight off Russian forces.

An African Union official questioned the use of emoji, pointing it could be interpreted as the continent being portrayed once again as only about wild animals.

Ebba Kalondo, the spokeswoman for AU Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat, tweeted back to the German government account questioning if Africa, its people and its wildlife was “just a joke to you?”

“Foreign policy is not a joke nor should it be used to score cheap geopolitical points by illustrating an entire Continent with colonial tropes,” Kalondo wrote in a follow-up tweet.

The German foreign ministry apologized and said that the tweet wasn’t meant to offend, but rather “to call out the lies that Russia uses to justify its imperialist war of aggression against Ukraine.”

Lavrov has visited South Africa, Eswatini, Angola and Eritrea this week, where he has repeated his claims that the United States and its Western allies are using Ukraine as a tool in a “hybrid war” against Russia.

Many African nations hold historical ties with Moscow. South Africa was one of several to abstain from a U.N. vote last year condemning Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. Eritrea voted against the resolution alongside Russia, Belarus, North Korea and Syria.

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Bomb injures at least a dozen people near a market in north-eastern DR Congo

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Congolese Defense Forces soldiers inspect the scene of an attack near the town of Oicha, 30 kms (20 miles) from Beni, Democratic Republic of Congo, Friday July 23, 2021.

A bomb exploded at a market in eastern Congo on Wednesday (Jan. 25), injuring at least a dozen people, authorities said.

An unknown person detonated a bomb inside a bag in North Kivu’s Beni town, said Tharcisse Katembo, a local official.

“Damage was documented (and) at least 12 people were injured. They were injured in the lower limbs, others in their upper limbs and others were hit in the head,” he told reporters in Beni.

The victims were taken to the hospital and an investigation was underway, Katembo said.

No one claimed responsibility for the bomb. However, attacks by the Allied Democratic Forces, which is believed to be linked with the Islamic State extremist movement, have been increasing in North Kivu, according to the United Nations.

Deadly violence

Earlier this month, at least 14 people were killed and dozens injured in an attack on a church in Kasindi town, which was claimed by Islamic State. It said in its Aamaq news outlet that it planted an explosive device inside the church and detonated it while people were praying.

Since April, attacks by the Allied Democratic Forces have killed at least 370 civilians, and the group has abducted several hundred more, including a significant number of children, the U.N. says.

The explosion Wednesday (Jan. 25) occurred in a local market next to a cassava mill, witnesses said.

Danny Syaghuswa, 16, said he was sitting on his motorcycle when a man in a striped shirt put a small bag behind a door, saying he would come back for it, according to an interview with local reporters heard by The Associated Press. “Less than five minutes after he left the bomb exploded,” Syaghuswa said.

Images of the attack circulating on chat groups show people lying on the floor. One woman in blood-stained clothes was carrying a small child.

Violence has wracked eastern Congo for decades as more than 120 armed groups and self-defense militias fight for land and power. Nearly 6 million people are internally displaced, and hundreds of thousands are facing extreme food insecurity, according to the United Nations.

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Somalia: Al-Shabaab terrorists storm mayor’s office, killing six

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Al-Shabaab terrorists set off a bomb and stormed a government building in Somalia’s capital Mogadishu.  The Al-Qaeda-backed terror group has stepped up bombings in the country.

At least six people were killed on Sunday in an attack by Al Shabaab militants at the mayor’s office in central Mogadishu, police said.

A suicide bomber set off a huge blast that tore through building near the office complex with gunfire erupting afterwards, Somali police spokesman Sadik Dudishe said at the end of the four-hour siege.

“All the six attackers died. Five of them during the fire exchange with the security forces and one of them detonated himself,” Dudishe told reporters.

“Six civilians also died during the attack and the situation is back to normal.” All the staffers at the mayor’s office were rescued, the police added.

Al 0Shabaab, a militant group allied with Al Qaeda claimed, responsibility for the attack via its communication channels, saying its fighters “made their way inside the targeted building after killing the security guards.” Witnesses said the initial explosion damaged nearby buildings and gunfire could be heard in the vicinity of the mayor’s office.

The area was quickly cordoned off by security officers, a witness who runs a business near the offices said.

Another witness, Omar Nur, said he was inside a nearby mall when the explosion went off and “was lucky to have escaped safely.” The Al Shabaab militants have been waging a bloody insurgency against the frail internationally backed central government for 15 years, carrying out attacks both in Somalia and neighbouring countries.

The latest attack comes days after seven soldiers were killed on Friday at a military camp in Galcad, a town in central Somalia about 375 kilometres north of the capital Mogadishu. The US military said the attack — in the Somali town retaken by the army this week — involved more than 100 Al Shabaab jihadists.

“The combined actions by partner forces on the ground and the collective self-defence strike is estimated to have resulted in three destroyed vehicles and approximately thirty Al Shabaab terrorists killed” the US military command for Africa (AFRICOM) said in a statement.

Source: Dawn

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