Ethnic terror stalks Congo town at night

By Samson Mulugeta

Bunia, Congo - The executioners always come at night. That was the case for Lokolo Tambwe.

The operating room nurse was the 14th person to be killed or kidnapped this week in a wave of terror being conducted in this war-ravaged town under the noses of United Nations peacekeepers.

Until Wednesday night, Lokolo had helped operate on victims of this city's civil war in a makeshift hospital. UN officials said he was hanged sometime that same night.

For several days now, hundreds of heavily armed soldiers from a French-led multinational force have been arriving with a UN mandate to secure the city. But while their commanders wait for the force to number 1 400 before they implement their full security plan, thousands of residents are cowering in their homes, dreading that knock in the middle of the night.

Since May 12, thousands of fighters from a Hema ethnic militia have occupied this city. They are from the Union of Congolese Patriots, known by its French abbreviation UPC. After driving away most of a rival ethnic group, the Lendu, the UPC soldiers have continued hunting for their alleged sympathisers.

After years of civil war in the Democratic Republic of Congo, which has led to the deaths of 3,5 million people, the UN sent peacekeepers to keep order in Bunia, where the latest fighting flared up on May 7. The contingent of fewer than a thousand peacekeepers proved ineffective and France stepped in, offering to lead a force of 1 400 soldiers.

But so far people in Bunia are experiencing the French-led presence as all show and no action.

For one 27-year-old Bunian, the dreaded knock came on Monday at 9pm. Ten members of the militia occupying the town dragged him and six others, including his brother, father and a neighbour, from their homes to a clearing kilometres away, and ordered them to take off their clothes and lie down in a trench. The Bunian said they had accused him of belonging to the Lendu militia.

The Bunian, who asked that his name not be used, was recovering on Friday from stab wounds covering his upper body and face. He said the rebels had killed the others with bayonets before setting upon him.

"It was a miracle I survived," he said. - Newsday

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