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

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Goodbye, New York

This is what the fastest-growing big cities in America have in common More

Job-Seeking Bangladeshis Risk Lives to Find Work

The number of Bangladeshi migrants on smugglers’ boats bound for Southeast Asian countries has soared in the past two years More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs