Laurent Nkunda used and abused civilians to capture the military base of Rumangabo. Civilian abuse continues to be one of the biggest consequences and challenges of the ongoing crisis in eastern D.R.Congo. According to an AFJN contact in the area, Congolese citizens of all ages must serve the rebel soldier’s needs or face beatings and possible death.

On October 9, 2008, Laurent Nkunda’s army captured the Rumangabo military base from the control of the Congolese army. The next day, they withdrew from the base, an effort facilitated by the United Nations’ peace keeping mission in the Congo (MONUC), according to a Radio Okapi report broadcast on Oct 10th. When the people who made it out of Rumangabo were asked when they thought they would return to their homes, all of them had no idea when that would be possible and expressed concerns about their safety. They are now scattered in the towns of Kalengera, Rubare and Rutshuru.

A woman from the town neighboring Rumangabo, whose name and home town is not disclosed for security reasons, told Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN) that she is “grateful to God who helped her to make it to Rutshuru,” a safer place for the moment. However, she said, “my butt, my back, and all my body is black and sore from being beaten by Nkunda’s armed forces.”

Two days prior to the attacks on Rumangabo military base, “I and many other people were forced to carry ammunition through places leading to Gisiza and other nearby places closer to the Rumangabo areas. We spent two days moving around with soldiers, carrying ammunition from Chanzu (a village near the Rwanda-Congo border) without knowing our final destination. I am used to carrying things for them such as water to their base in Mutovu and Kanombe. This is one of the tasks that everyone does in our area.” Everyone in this village controlled by Nkunda, from children to the elders, have no other life of their own besides serving Nkunda’s forces.

When asked what happened after all the fighting was over, she said that they were taken to Rumangabo military base to carry things from there to different locations. Some of them were asked to carry dead bodies of soldiers who had fallen during the Rumangabo fight. “My grandmother who is elderly was beaten and passed out because she could no longer walk with a dead body wrapped in a sac on her head. A young boy was bleeding from the nose at first and fell down because he was exhausted from carrying such a heavy load for a whole day. When his mother stopped to take care of her son, she was beaten and asked not to look behind at the risk of being shot. To this day we do not know what happened to the boy and my grandmother.”

On the question of rape, she paused and said “if you do not watch out, you are raped. Many have children and there is no help, and do not know what to do. Some are kept for months and one day we see them coming back home because their captives have moved to further locations. We have a lot to say about what has and still is happening to many of us [women], but we have become numb because we see no way out of our situation.”

The recent fight between the Congolese National Army and the rebel armed forces of Laurent Nkunda in Rumangabo added more suffering to the existing difficult conditions of the people in that area. Also, many are the untold stories of the crimes that Laurent Nkunda continues to inflict on the people in the area he controls (Jomba, Bunagana, Chanzu, Kanombe, Mutovu etc…) It is important to add to this story that the Congolese army looted many villages such as Biruma the day before the Rumangabo fight and many other villages the day after. Like so many women inCongo, a case of rape of a young girl in Rugari by one of the Congolese national army soldiers has not gotten any attention.

Africa Faith and Justice Network (AFJN) tells this story among many as part of our continued commitment to breaking the silence on what is going on in the Rutshuru territory in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo. Please join the effort to break the silence by being part of the advocacy for peace in the Congo.