News / Africa

Risk of ‘Ethnic War’ in Eastern Congo Town

Nick Long
Up to 100,000 people have fled a town in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo where government forces have been battling a militia for most of the past week. There are fears the fighting at the town of Kitchanga could become a spreading ethnic conflict.

The fighting around the town of Kitchanga is between the Democratic Republic of Congo's national army and a militia called the Alliance of Patriots for a Free and Sovereign Congo.

About 700 APCLS militants arrived in Kitchanga in January, when their commander was in talks with the government about possibly integrating his troops in the army.
 
Those talks broke down and tension between the APCLS and the army regiment in Kitchanga flared into an open war on February 24.  The United Nations says the fighting in the town has caused at least 80 deaths.
 
A civilian who was in Kitchanga that day, Jean Claude Mirumbi, said the fighting was triggered by an ethnic dispute.
 
He says it is really an ethnic war because it started after the APCLS tried to break up a displaced people’s camp where they claimed ethnic Tutsi had hidden weapons and were forming their own militia.  The army protected the camp and fighting broke out between the APCLS and the army.
 
The APCLS are mainly from the Hunde community, while many of the army troops fighting in Kitchanga are Hutu and Tutsi.

An aid worker for the international charity Oxfam, Eddy Mbuyi, said the fighting has turned into an ethnic conflict.
 
He told U.N.-funded IRIN news that at Kitchanga, both sides have been targeting ethnic groups by burning their houses.
 
The fighting does not seem to have spread elsewhere in Masisi, although Mbuyi warns it might.

An APCLS spokesman, Kingi Mbayo, denies it is waging an ethnic war.
 
 He says the APCLS is not against the Tutsi, and has very good relations with the Hutu community.  He says it is a political and military movement that includes all ethnic groups.
 
But he added there is a problem with what he called fake refugees pretending to be Congolese Tutsi who are claiming a right to return to land in the Congo, and he called for the DRC and Rwandan governments to work harder to resolve this issue.
 
The clashes at Kitchanga are part of the long-running conflict in the eastern DRC, where dozens of armed groups have fought the government and each other for years, mainly over the region's rich mineral wealth.
 
Despite the fierce fighting at Kitchanga, the APCLS military spokesman, Jannot Makale Kale, says his group is not against the government.
 
He says the group is ready to collaborate with the army, which it regards as its ally, but it cannot leave Kitchanga.
 
Meanwhile, aid workers report most of the population of Kitchanga, estimated at 120,000 people, has fled the town and many have taken refuge in the forest.

A U.N. spokesman said there are still about 3,000 displaced people around a U.N. peacekeepers base in the town.

You May Like

Mood Tense Ahead of Scotland Independence Vote

As race to persuade undecided voters continues, No voters say they believe life in Scotland will slowly improve and do not want to take a risk by endorsing independence More

South Africa’s 'Open Mosque' Admits Everyone, Including Critics

Open Mosque founder plans to welcome gay worshipers and allow women to lead prayers More

Ukrainian Activist in Despair About Future of Her Country

IrIna Dovgan, accused of being a spy and tortured by pro-Russian separatists, is appealing to UN Human Rights Council to support her country More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Spacei
X
September 17, 2014 4:20 AM
The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.
Video

Video Enviropreneur Seeks to Save the Environment, Empower the Community

Lorna Rutto, a former banker, is now an ‘enviropreneur’ - turning plastic waste into furniture and fences discusses the challenges she faces in Africa with raw materials and the environment.
Video

Video West Trades Accusations Over Ransoms

As world leaders try to forge a common response to the threat posed by Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria, there is simmering tension over differing policies on paying ransoms. In the past month, the jihadist group has beheaded two Americans and one Briton. Both countries refuse to pay ransom money. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London, there is uncertainty in the approach of some other European nations.
Video

Video Scotland Independence Bid Stokes Global Interest

The people of Scotland are preparing to vote on whether to become independent and break away from the rest of Britain, in a referendum being watched carefully in many other countries. Some see it as a risky experiment; while others hope a successful vote for independence might energize their own separatist demands. Foreign immigrants to Scotland have a front row seat for the vote. VOA’s Henry Ridgwell spoke to some of them in Edinburgh.
Video

Video Washington DC Mural Artists Help Beautify City

Like many cities, Washington has a graffiti problem. Buildings and homes, especially in low-income neighborhoods, are often targets of illegal artwork. But as we hear from VOA’s Julie Taboh, officials in the nation's capital have come up with an innovative program that uses the talents of local artists to beautify the city.
Video

Video US Muslim Leaders Condemn Islamic State

Leaders of America's Muslim community are condemning the violent extremism of the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. The U.S. Muslim leaders say militants are exploiting their faith in a failed effort to justify violent extremism. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.
Video

Video Bedouin Woman Runs Successful Business in Palestinian City

A Bedouin woman is breaking social taboos by running a successful vacation resort in the Palestinian town of Jericho. Bedouins are a sub-group of Arabs known for their semi-nomadic lifestyle. Zlatica Hoke says the resort in the West Bank's Jordan Valley is a model of success for women in the region.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid